Everyone, it seemed, smelled a rat.
At least two dozen of the rodents died in hidden nooks and crannies at Orlando International Airport, creating a stench so foul it forced authorities last weekend to shut down a customs checkpoint and divert arriving international passengers to the opposite side of the airport.
The odor at Airside 1, which remained closed Wednesday, nauseated passengers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors, said Special Agent Zachary Mann, an agency spokesman. He did not know the number of people who were affected.
A $321-million renovation and expansion of the airport's two oldest satellite-gate areas caused the 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 stank up the customs checkpoint on the first floor.
"It's not something you want to happen, but we're in Florida. That's where we are," Fennell said. The customs checkpoint is scheduled to reopen today, she said.
Officials have removed at least two dozen dead rats — some workers say twice that many — from the walls and ceiling of the first-floor customs facility.