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Hartsfield Airport Evacuated

Aired November 16, 2001 - 14:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: To Atlanta now and airport officials explaining what's happening there at Hartsfield. We'll listen.

BENJAMIN DECOSTA, HARTSFIELD AIRPORT GENERAL MANAGER: ... which is a code for indicating that a person has breached the security and for the police to go into action to apprehend the person. The person was able to get away and was not apprehended.

Of course, we have security cameras around the airport, and we were able to catch this individual on video. And so, we do have a description of the person, and that description has been broadcast to the various police officers and the National Guard station here at Hartsfield so that we are currently searching for this individual.

At the same time, in compliance with the directives of Secretary Mineta, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in cases of this kind we are evacuating the airport, decanting the concourses. And so, there are somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people we roughly estimate at the airport at the time the breech of security occurred. And so, we have evacuated each concourse. E, D, and C are already 100 percent evacuated, and we are in the process of evacuating concourses B, A and T.

Once the evacuation is completed, we will do a search to make sure that the concourses are secure, and then begin to bring our passengers and customers back on the concourses.

When a code orange is sounded, the aircraft at the gates are on hold to make sure that the flying public is safe and that no one who has breached security can get on an aircraft. And so, no aircraft was allowed to depart from the airport when security was breached. All domestic flights are being held. And, of course, in order to control the situation, domestic flights across the United States are on ground hold. What that means is that those domestic flights that are not inbound to Hartsfield are being held in the ground in distant cities.

International flights are somewhat different. We have a number of wide-body international aircraft from Europe and other places inbound to Hartsfield, and we are allowing those aircraft to park at the airport.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HEMMER: Well, while things get established there in Atlanta's International Hartsfield Airport, we did get a little bit more information, chiefly the suspect in this case, a man, has alluded authorities and apparently he is still on the run. The person got away, in the words of Benjamin DeCosta who is briefing reporters out there at Hartsfield.

The cameras, they say, will help -- cameras set up as a security precaution, and apparently they have gotten a pretty good sighting of the suspect in this case, and they will put that word out to local law enforcement officials, and they will continue to hunt.

Again, Mr. DeCosta is back now.

DECOSTA: ... and customs. And as soon as the rest of the evacuation is complete, their processing can be complete. But they will be held on concourse E for the time being, until we are finished.

QUESTION: How long do you anticipate this is going to take?

DECOSTA: Excuse me one second.

HEMMER: They're evacuating the airport, we know that. There will be a major security sweep throughout the place there, and that is a large security sweep, because it's a rather large area. Five to 10,000 people he estimates were in the airport at the time.

And as you've seen from our videotape and from our live pictures, thousands of people now milling about outside the airport there. Code orange, in other words, code orange meaning aircraft on hold on the ground, nobody gets on right now. No planes take off. A few planes, though, have landed already en route, but the others destined for Atlanta have been told to stay on the ground in their respective cities. Also, they will make provisions for some of those international flights inbound to Atlanta at this time.

But listen, it's a Friday afternoon, and Friday afternoon means busy times for the Atlanta airport. And today would be no expectation, especially the Friday prior to the Thanksgiving holiday of next week. And clear down the line across the country this is going to have a significant impact on travel throughout the day today. So folks, if you're out there, be patient. We're hanging in there with you. But it's going to be a mess for some time.

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