Language Barrier Likely Cause of Security Scare at Miami Port

Incident began because of lack of proper identification, activated full security deployment


In the ensuing hours, various authorities and sources gave differing details, adding to the confusion. Soon, rumors had made their way into news reports online and on television.

Some outlets reported the port had closed. Others, including The Miami Herald's Web site, reported the discovery of two 55-gallon containers, a subtle indication of dangerous chemicals.

"There was some confusion," said Goldberg.

In an era after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, such scares are not unprecedented.

In September 2002, three medical students who made off-color remarks about Sept. 11 at a Georgia restaurant sparked a similar law enforcement response and media frenzy after blowing through a toll booth on Alligator Alley.

On Sunday, authorities - as they did then - reminded reporters that the incident proved a valuable drill.

"The security checks and balances at the port worked well and effectively. What in the past would have taken us three to four days had taken the federal, local and state authorities a few hours to investigate and resolve," Goldberg said.

By the time of the much-delayed press conference, the mood had lightened - especially when a cruise ship horn and one from a passing car, playing the squeal of a horse, interrupted the speakers.

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(McClatchy Newspapers correspondents Evan S. Benn and Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.)

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(c) 2007, The Miami Herald.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.