ORLANDO, Fla. — At least two dozen rodents died in hidden nooks and
crannies of a gate area at Orlando International Airport, creating a
rat control stench so foul it has forced authorities to shut down a customs
checkpoint and divert arriving international passengers to the
opposite side of the airport, authorities said. The dead rat odor made
passengers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors
nauseous, said Special Agent Zachary Mann, an agency spokesman. He
did not know the number of critters, control who were affected by the
which began last weekend. The customs checkpoint will reopen Friday.
A $321 million renovation and expansion of the airport's two
oldest satellite gate areas caused the rat infestation. Construction
crews working on Airside 1 and Airside 3 upset nests of rats living
in the ground and sent them scurrying into the Airside 1 building,
said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell.
Exterminators poisoned the rodents, and some of the creatures
crawled into the ceiling and walls of Airside 1 to die. Their
remains stunk up the customs checkpoint on the first floor.
"It's not something you want to happen, but we're in Florida.
That's where the critter are," Fennell said.
The customs checkpoint is scheduled to reopen Friday, she said.
Orlando rat control is the first stop for many foreign tourists
visiting Walt Disney World and other Central Florida attractions. Last
year, 2.3 million foreign critters passed through the airport.
During the shutdown, buses are taking passengers to a second Customs
checkpoint at Airside 4, which is on the opposite side of the airport,
Fennell said. That gate area handles the bulk of foreign flights for
major carriers such as British Airways and Lufthansa. Domestic flights
and outgoing international flights at Airside 1 were not affected. No
major customs delays were reported.