Embassies in Canberra and 18 consulates in Melbourne, Australia were placed on lockdown as at least a dozen received suspicious packages allegedly containing “asbestos fibers” or “white powder” on Wednesday. Authorities stated it was an organized and “well timed” plan. Though notes inserted into the packages claimed it was asbesto fiber, other media stated the contents could be powdered concrete. In other words: the substance is believed to be non-toxic at this time, but exactly what it is requires further testing.
The Indian Consulate in Melbourne was the first to raise the alarm at around 1:15 pm on Wednesday. The consulates were evacuated as emergency crews used hazmat bags to collect the envelopes as the number of consulates grew. Police stated that it might be the work of a “mentally disturbed person” since no one has been injured.
In #Melbourne, the Indian and US consulates on St Kilda Road as well as the British, Swiss and German diplomatic missions are believed to have been targeted. The Korean, Greek, Italian, Pakistani and Egyptian consulates have also been put on lockdown.https://t.co/QCJoLT5l2N
— Firstpost (@firstpost) January 9, 2019
A major security operation is unfolding across the city tonight, involving 18 consulates that were sent suspicious packages. Police and hazardous material teams are dealing with the scare right now. @BlakeJohnson #7News pic.twitter.com/F06rz2kDKC
— 7 News Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) January 9, 2019
Quite the project for a “mentally disturbed person.” The Australian Federal Police issued this statement:
- Police and emergency services have responded to suspicious packages delivered to Embassies and Consulates in Canberra and Melbourne today (Wednesday, 9 January 2019).
- The packages are being examined by attending emergency services.
- The circumstances surrounding the incidents are being investigated.
- As this matter is subject to further inquiries it is not appropriate to provide further information that may impact on the investigation.”
EMTs attended to employees of the consulates, but none were transported to the hospital. Though the substance was believed to be non-toxic, emergency crews treated it as hazardous in accordance with established procedures.
“We do know now that the item was not likely a bio-hazard.” Manuela Erb, the honorary consul of the Consulate of Switzerland in Melbourne
The Indian, US, British, Swiss, German Korean, Greek, Italian, Pakistani and Egyptian missions were targeted as well as an unknown number of embassies in Canberra.
The Canberra Times reported,
An apparent extraordinary coincidence brought a hazmat truck to the US Embassy for a training exercise while federal police investigated suspicious packages received at diplomatic missions in Canberra on Wednesday.
Australian Federal Police revealed embassies in the national capital had received packages in addition to consulates in Melbourne, where staff were evacuated from buildings…
On Monday, an envelope containing white powder prompted partial evacuation of the Argentinian Consulate in Sydney. The powder was determined to be non-toxic, according to Fox.
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