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Substance in Miami Airport Not White, Powdery

Aired August 21, 2002 - 11:31   ET

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


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: As a matter of fact, we have got something new coming in now, as a matter of fact. Let's go to our Mark Potter who -- I guess -- Mark, have you arrived at the airport yet?
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed I have, Leon, and we are starting to get a better handle on this story. I just spoke with Jeff Hackman (ph), who is the spokesman for the Miami-Dade Fire Department, and he says that the initial story of white powder is not true. Not true. I want to underscore that. He said what they have here at the security area at Concourse B, is some sort of aerosol, something in the air, around the area of the security checkpoint.

He says that 36 people are being treated on the scene with symptoms of scratchy throats, coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes. They are being treated by paramedics. A hazardous material specialist, a HAZMAT team have gone in to the area now. That just occurred a moment ago, to try to nail down what this is. They do not know what it is, but they say they do know that the initial report of white powder is not true. They got that information initially from the 911 call, but when they got here they found that that was not, indeed, the case -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Mark, of the people that they are treating, does it appear -- or have they said whether or not that any of them will have to go to a hospital, or are they just being treated there on the scene?

POTTER: I don't know the answer to whether any go to the hospital. None have gone yet, but they are all being treated on the scene. It sounds like the symptoms, at least as initially described, are not that serious. I don't want to presume to know the actual condition, but the movement that we are seeing here is all inward, teams going in. I'm not seeing anybody coming out on stretchers.

HARRIS: OK. You mentioned the symptoms that we are talking about here. You're right, that does not sound very serious, but it is just rather curious that all of these people would experience all of this at the same exact time -- all right, thanks, Mark. We appreciate that. Make sure you get back to us when you hear something new, and be careful. Certainly let us know if you start...

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Pretty alarming now that the number has now jumped from -- eight was the initial report, to now 36 people being treated for very similar symptoms, but we are going to keep tabs on that.

HARRIS: All right. Stay with us, folks. We are back with more after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: If you have a flight out of Miami International Airport at Concourse B, good luck. It is not going to happen any time soon because they have evacuated that area because 36 people now are being treated for irritations in their throat, in their eyes, they are talking about irritations such as scratchy throat and burning eyes, and they are coughing and many of those people are being treated on the scene now there at Miami International Airport.

HARRIS: Well, let's see if we can get some more information on that. We'll just check in right now with someone who is standing by at the airport. We have been watching him work this morning. Art Barron of our affiliate WFOR. We see him now checking in -- Art, what do you know down there?

ART BARRON, WFOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can tell you I'm having a hard time hearing you because there is a lot of noise out here. But here at Miami International Airport, about 10:00, there was a report of some kind of a chemical, about 36 people were treated for some kind of respiratory problem. They had teary eyes, they were coughing, they were sneezing, they feeling rather sick. A report came in to Miami- Dade Fire here in South Florida of a possible anthrax scare, but it turned out at this point, no type of anthrax material found. No white powdery substance, as we have all been accustomed to hearing about. These are HAZMAT crews you are looking at right now. They have suited up, they have scrubbed the area down, Terminal B on the second level. There is some indication perhaps that this could have been pepper spray of some sort. But right now, people are trying to assess the situation. Right now, we have firefighter John Hackman (ph), Miami- Dade Fire -- what's the very latest, what can you tell us?

JOHN HACKMAN (ph), MIAMI-DADE FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our hazardous materials crew just came out of the building. They made entry, they are being decontaminated right now on the scene. Once they are decontaminated and out of their entry suit, we will be able to talk to them, get an update, and I will be able to come back, and give you more information as to what we are dealing with.

BARRON: So the report came in around 10:00 of an anthrax scare. When was it determined it wasn't an anthrax chemical (ph)?

HACKMAN (ph): Once we got on scene and we initiated the investigation, trying to find out what was going on, talking to people on the scene, that's when we determined, that it doesn't look to be an anthrax scare at this time because there is no powder, there is no substance that would determine it to be anthrax.

BARRON: OK. And the condition of the 36 patients?

HACKMAN (ph): Right now, still everybody is stable. We are monitoring everybody just to make sure nobody worsens.

BARRON: OK. But at this point, we have no idea what the chemical or the vapor is? HACKMAN (ph): At this point, no. As soon as I get a chance to talk to my hazardous materials team, I will have a better idea of what we are dealing with.

BARRON: OK. So obviously an upset in a lot of flight plans for people out here at Miami International Airport. The airport -- this particular section, Concourse B, shut down since 10:00, and authorities out here believe that it will be shut down for another two hours.

We are reporting live at Miami International, Art Barron for CNN -- back to you.

HARRIS: Art, Leon Harris here. Can you hear me now, Art?

BARRON: I can hear you a little bit, a little (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but you can go ahead. You can understand the chaos out here.

HARRIS: Oh, yes. I understand completely, and I appreciate you being patient and bearing with us here. Let me ask you if you can verify for us the number of people that the folks there -- the rescue folks there are treating right now?

BARRON: Can I see any of them? If I move down, I can see about 15 or 20 of the individuals. They are basically talking to emergency crews, they seem to be doing all right. But as we just heard in that live interview, they appear to be all right. They are stable. So at this point, they are under observation and we will -- it is wait-and- see attitude at MIA.

HARRIS: Art, will you have a chance to talk with any of them?

BARRON: Not yet because this whole area is cordoned off. You have HAZMAT people again who are taking care of the situation here, a lot of emergency personnel. You have authorities on the scene. So right now they are not allowing us to talk to them, but of course, as soon as they are free to go, we are going to go ahead and try to talk to them. You can count on that.

HARRIS: That's great. Well, it looks as though they are in good shape from what we can see in these pictures here. Art Barron of WFOR, thank you very much. Appreciate that report and that update and trying to find that information for us. And as you just heard there, we just have to wait a few more minutes now to see what the HAZMAT folks are going to say about what they discovered inside. They are being decontaminated themselves, and once they are free from the equipment and their gear and their uniforms, they will come over and hopefully give us some more information.

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