MIAMI, AP – Travelers arriving in the United States from abroad were stuck in long lines at airports nationwide when a virus shut down a U.S. Customs computer system for several hours, officials said.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the virus impacted computer systems at a number of airports Thursday night, including those in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Laredo, Texas.
Knocke said customs agents immediately switched to manual inspections. He declined to provide details on where the computer virus originated.
The worst delays appeared to be at Miami International Airport, where as many as 2,000 people waited to clear immigration, airport spokesman Marc Henderson said. The passengers were not permitted to leave the area before then.
Brian Hunt and his wife, who were visiting from Spain, said it took them nearly five hours to be processed.
"The agent was very charming, very nice and greeted us with a smile," he told The Miami Herald. "It was just an unfortunate thing, but these things happen. Who do we blame?"
The computer problem originated in database systems located in Virginia and lasted from around 6 p.m. until about 11:30 p.m., said Zachary Mann, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in southern Florida.
At New York”s airports, customs officials processed passengers by hand. Officials used backup computer systems to keep passengers moving at Los Angeles International Airport, where the computers were only down for an hour and a half.
"It was during a light time of travel for international passengers at LAX," said Mike Fleming, customs spokesman in Los Angeles. "All systems have been restored to full capacity."