Published: 01:57 GMT, 8 November 2015 | Updated: 12:16 GMT, 8 November 2015
A CCTV monitoring station at Sharm el Sheikh airport was abandoned more than half the time, staff have revealed, raising yet more questions about the shockingly slack security regime believed to have let an ISIS bomb onto a plane.
Workers at the airport in the terror-stricken Sinai region of Egypt said that cameras overlooking baggage handlers were unmonitored around half the time - and that camera networks throughout the airport are broken.
Staff speaking to the Independent on Sunday said it was '50-50' whether somebody was in place at the camera station, where a security official was supposed to be staying alert for suspicious activity.
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Crash site: Pictured is the wreckage of the Russian Metrojet flight that crashed not far outside of Sharm el Sheikh airport, where staff have revealed baggage handlers were often unsupervised
The revelation is the latest in a string of shocking lapses at the airport, which include claims of security staff playing Candy Crush on their phone instead of watching X-ray machines, and allowing passengers to skip security completely for £15 bribes.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the staff told the Independent that 'it happens sometimes that no-one is there' at the vital stage in airport security. They added that 'there are a lot of broken cameras' throughout the airport.
The leading theory of what brought down a Russian passenger jet not long after it left Sharm is that a bomb was detonated in the hold of the plane - raising concerns about how a device could have made it inside a supposedly secure aircraft.
Meanwhile airport security around the world will have to be overhauled if it is confirmed a Russian airliner was brought down by an ISIS bomb in Egypt, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned.
Egyptian investigators have said they have yet to determine whether a noise picked up by the cockpit voice recorder in the final seconds of the Metrojet flight en route from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg, Russia was the sound of the explosion.
However Mr Hammond reaffirmed that the view of the British authorities that it was 'more likely than not' that the crash was the result of a terrorist bomb planted on the aircraft before it took off from on October 31 killing all 224 on board.
Mr Hammond warned that extra checks and delays at airports could become a permanent fixture if – as suspected – it is found ISIS fanatics downed the Russian plane.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show: ‘If this turns out to be a device planted by an ISIL operative, or by somebody inspired by ISIL, then clearly we will have to look again at the level of security we expect to see in areas where ISIL is active.
‘What we have got to do is ensure that airport security everywhere is at the level of the best and that airport security reflects the local conditions and where there is a higher local threat level that will mean higher levels of security are required.
‘That may mean additional costs, it may mean additional delays at airports as people check in.’
Mr Hammond said the evacuation process was ‘running up against the capacity limits of the airport’ in Sharm, with the demand that bags be left behind causing delays.
Chaos: Passengers queue at the airport, where a slew of damaging revelations about the security regime have emerged
He said most people would see a delay of two to three days in returning to the UK but ‘others will stay and complete their holiday’.
His comments come as the president of Emirates airline Tim Clark said he expected the tragedy would result in demands for stringent aviation security worldwide.
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow, Mr Clark added that he had ordered a security review, but was not suspended any flights as a result of the disaster.
'What happened in Sharm al-Sheikh last week, and to a lesser extent with the ... (Germanwings) aircraft, they are game changers for our industry," he said, referring to the crash of a Germanwings airliner in the French Alps in March.
'They have to be addressed at industry level because no doubt the countries -- U.S., Europe -- I would think will make some fairly stringent, draconian demands on the way aviation works with security.
'I think there will be some hard thinking to do if what is alleged to have happened in Sharm al-Sheikh is correct.'
Emirates operates two daily round trip flights linking Cairo with Dubai, the Middle East's commercial hub. It does not fly to Sharm el-Sheikh, the departure airport for the doomed Russian airliner.
Concerns about the baggage handling regime were also behind the UK's decision to suspend flights to the Egyptian resort city.
Officials are now insisting that Britons returning home take only hand luggage, and let the Government fly their bags home separately.
Sources at the airport also told the Associated Press that a baggage scanner at the airport was broken and security was lax at a gate used to put food and fuel onto the planes.
Seven officials involved in security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, several for more than a decade, revealed the gaps. Several said the malfunctioning scanner had been noted in security reports to their superiors, but the was never replaced.
One of the officials, involved in security for planes, also pointed to bribe-taking by poorly paid policemen monitoring X-ray machines. 'I can't tell you how many times I have caught a bag full of drugs or weapons that they have let through for €10 or whatever,' he said.
The long way: Passengers queue with bags, hoping to get home after being stranded in the African nation after British officials suspended flights because of their concern at the security regime
Egypt's aviation minister and his spokesman did not respond to repeated calls and texts for comment. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has said British officials sent a security team to evaluate the airport 10 months ago, in cooperation with Egyptian officials, and were satisfied with the results.
A spokesman for Britain's Department of Transportation would not comment on any details of what the team found. But British Transport Secretary Patrick Mcloughlin suggested on Friday that screening of checked-in bags was insufficient, telling the BBC that it had imposed its own additional checks on its flights 'because we weren't wholly satisfied with the way screening had been done.'
All bags are put through a scanner as passengers enter Sharm airport, and carry-on bags go through a second machine at the gate before boarding.
But a scanner in the sorting area for checked-in bags often is not working, staff said.
One of the officials said the breakdowns in the 10-year-old CTX scanner were because operators didn't use it properly - 'human stupidity,' he said - rather than technical faults.
'I have seen people unplug it to save power,' he said.
Another of the officials said the staff made sure the scanner was operating well enough whenever international experts came to review measures at the airport.
'We only care about appearances,' he said. 'Once they (higher-ups) hear something is coming, suddenly everything gets fixed. ... We wish we had visits every day.'
Several of the officials argued that it was 'not that important' that the machine broke down because when it was working, it is only used to scan a sample of the bags, not all of them.
The scanner was one of at least five granted by Britain, and another scanner is used at Cairo's airport but only to scan luggage for flights to London and Paris, according to two security officials there. In Sharm el-Sheikh, the selective use of the scanner is even more arbitrary, three officials said.
On Friday, Russia suspended all flights to Egypt, joining Britain, which had halted flights to Sharm el-Sheikh. Ireland has also suspended flights to the Red Sea resort, while at least a half-dozen Western European governments told their citizens not to travel there.
Theory: Intelligence officials believe that a bomb was smuggled inside the hold of the Metrojet flight - leading to acute concerns about the baggage handling process
Empty charter planes have been flying to Sharm el-Sheikh to bring home stranded Russian and British tourists. But these flights banned passengers from checking in luggage, suggesting a concern about security and luggage-screening procedures.
Egyptian authorities at Sharm el-Sheikh airport have begun questioning airport staff and ground crew who worked on the Russian flight and have placed some employees under surveillance, according to airport and security officials.
The officials from Sharm el-Sheikh airport said security checks were often lax at a gate into the facility used to bring in food and fuel. Local hotels provide food to some flights and deliver the food directly to the planes, they said.
Guards at the gate often let such deliveries go in without full searches because they know the delivery men, the officials said. Guards in a diligent mood are often bribed with a meal or two to pass the trucks unsearched to save time, they added.
'You are not going to search your friend or your friend's friend,' one official said. 'It's rude.'
A retired senior official from Egypt's Tourism Ministry, Magdy Salim, said airport guards regularly skip security checks for friends and co-workers and often don't search people 'out of respect to save their time if they look chic or if they come out of a fancy car.'
'Airport security procedures in Egypt are almost (all) bad' and marred by 'insufficiencies,' Salim said.
Earlier Saturday, the head of the joint investigation team, Ayman el-Muqadem, said a noise was heard in the last second of the cockpit voice recording before the plane plummeted. The announcement bolstered U.S. and British suspicions it was brought down by a bomb.
However, el-Muqadem warned it was too early to say what caused the plane to apparently break up in mid-flight, adding that analysis of the noise was underway.
'All scenarios are being considered ... it could be lithium batteries in the luggage of one of the passengers, it could be an explosion in the fuel tank, it could be fatigue in the body of the aircraft, it could be the explosion of something,' he told reporters at Cairo press conference.