By Ted Scouten

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida Senator Bill Nelson is urging the State Department to open a temporary passport office in Miami while repairs are being made to the current office due to flooding.

On Tuesday, Nelson sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requesting the temporary office saying the closure of the Miami office left many Florida travelers having to go as far as Atlanta, New Orleans or San Juan to renew a passport.

“Closure of the Miami Passport Agency—even for a short period of time—is an inconvenience for Florida travelers and others from around the southeastern United States, especially those with urgent or emergency travel plans,” wrote Nelson.

He says it’s something that should not be a major inconvenience to travelers so they should have a temporary office while the other remains closed.

“Until the Agency can be re-opened, I urge you to make every effort to minimize the inconvenience, including issuing clear guidance to affected travelers and opening a temporary location in Miami for emergency passport services as soon as possible. I also request that the Department provide regular updates detailing the steps taken to re-open the Agency and assist travelers in the meantime,” wrote Nelson.

Miami Passport Office Director Ryan Dooley said he’s pushing to get several temporary offices opened by Friday in other federal offices. He said those facilities would only be able to accept applications. They would not be able to issue passports.

The office, located in the Omni building on Biscayne Boulevard, has significant water damage from a burst pipe, according to the State Department, and will remain closed until further notice.

CBS4 News got a firsthand look at some of the damage. In the space just outside the passport office, several ceiling tiles fell.  There was also a pile of trash bags and debris. From the doors of the passport office you can see fans drying the inside, but there was no damage visible from that vantage point.

The shutdown drastically affects passport applications throughout the region, whether or not they were filed at the Miami office.

People trying to pick up passports in Miami are still out of luck. The Levine family from Davie had to drive to New Orleans. That was the first place they were able to get an appointment. They received passports Tuesday afternoon and are flying to London on Friday.

“Just finished picking up our passports, which we got from the New Orleans passport agency,” said Cliff Levine, “and getting ready for the 13-hour trek to the Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Florida area.”

Tony Tamayo is going to Italy next Wednesday.  His passport expires in a couple of months so he dropped it off to renew it.

“We feel like we’re being held hostage here,” Tamayo said. “I had a perfectly good passport. I turned it in to the United State Passport office and now it’s taken and I can’t leave this country because I don’t have a passport.”

Dooley said it does not appear that any passports or documents were damaged by the flood.

Those who were scheduled to pick up a passport, have a pending appointment or are in need of expedited passport services have been instructed to call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 or 888-874-7793 (TTY/TTD).

If your trip is more than two weeks away, Dooley suggests applying for an expedited passport at the local post office or clerk of court’s office.  He said you should have the passport in two weeks.

At last check, a flood remediation company was working to dry out the office space.


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