LOS ANGELES — A terminal at Los Angeles International Airport was evacuated for an hour Wednesday when a cylinder was found in a planter near a second-floor entrance. The plastic object turned out to be harmless and no flights were delayed.
Airport police described the cylinder as similar in size and appearance to the housing of vehicle location transponder systems, which are used by transportation companies and the airport, said Nancy Castles, spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports.
The city Police Department, which sent a bomb squad to inspect the object, identified the cylinder as a noise detection instrument used to monitor sound levels.
The discrepancy could not be immediately resolved. Both agencies agreed, however, that the object was not a threat.
“We quickly determined it was not dangerous,” said Officer Guillermo Campos, a spokesman for city police.
Castles said commercial vehicles that serve the terminals have transponders so that companies can track them. The airport also uses transponder equipment to count those vehicles to assess fees, but the cylinder was not airport equipment, she said.
Castles said the airport does not use noise monitors in the central terminal area.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal was evacuated at 7:20 a.m. Hundreds of travelers left the building as police cars and the bomb squad arrived.
“Everybody just basically started going down the steps on either side of the lift and quite calmly proceeded to the exit,” said Anton Schwpers, 44, of South Africa, who arrived from Hawaii with wife before flying on to London.
Other airport buildings remained open for arrivals and departures.
Joey Sanchez, 20, who works in a sunglasses store in the terminal, said many of the evacuees were fellow employees.
“There’s also been a lot of cutbacks on a lot of flights, usually at that time the airport is jumping, but today that was not the case,” Sanchez said.
The evacuation came a day after the FBI’s most recent warning about possible terrorist activity in the United States.
The agency warned of a possible attack “on or around” Tuesday, based on information obtained from interviews by U.S. officials with detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan.
Attorney General John Ashcroft urged Americans to adopt “the highest state of alert” in the search for 17 men possibly linked to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, believed responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We certainly want to err on the side of caution,” police Lt. Horace Frank said.
Frank said evacuees were moved to other parts of the airport.
The international terminal was evacuated on Dec. 25 after someone reported finding a “suspicious package” that turned out to be wrapped Christmas presents.