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Korean War-era compass triggers radiation scare at Miami port

By Mike Ahlers, CNN
updated 1:29 PM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Customs officials detected radiation from a couple's bag at a terminal Wednesday morning
  • Passengers in the terminal were evacuated, and others were told to stay on a cruise ship
  • The source of the radiation was found to be an old compass
  • After the compass was found to be safe, it was returned to its owner

Washington (CNN) -- A Miami cruise ship terminal was evacuated for more than two hours Wednesday morning when customs officials detected radiation from a passenger bag. The radiation, they discovered, was being emitted from a Korean War-era compass.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jaime Ruiz said officers from the agency detected radiation coming from a couple's bag as they disembarked from a cruise ship trip. Passengers in the terminal were evacuated, and other passengers were told to remain on the ship.

The source of the radiation, Ruiz said, was discovered to be an old compass. After the compass was found to be safe, it was returned to the owner, he said.

Customs and Border Protection officers wear radiation devices, similar in size to pagers, to detect possible threats. But the sensitive devices can also detect naturally occurring radiation in such substances as ceramics and kitty litter, and even in people recently treated with nuclear medicines.

Ruiz said Miami-Dade Police Department explosives detection canine support and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department hazardous materials units responded to the scene.

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