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Passengers evacuated at Baltimore airport after false security alarm

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than 1,000 passengers were evacuated Thursday from a concourse at Baltimore-Washington International Airport because of an apparent equipment malfunction that mistakenly signaled a security breach, a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said.

The concourse, known as a pier, has since reopened. The passengers were rescreened, and there were no signs of trouble.

"Now we believe that there may have been a false indication or a malfunction of the screening equipment and that piece of equipment has been shut down," said airline spokeswoman Melanie Jones.

The evacuation, ordered at 11:40 a.m. by the Federal Aviation Administration, involved between 1,5000 and 2,000 people who were on the pier, and in five Southwest Airlines jetliners. It reopened about 1:10 p.m. ET.

Officials said Argenbright Security was responsible for security at the pier. On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation said it was breaking ties with Argenbright because of problems with the company.

The Transportation Department's decision will have little impact on either airline security or Argenbright. Per congressional mandate, the federal government will take over airport security from all private screeners by late summer. Until that happens, Argenbright-employed screeners will be on the job, but their days will be numbered.




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