Police in Australia say they are investigating the source of packages containing suspected “hazardous material” sent to foreign embassies and consulates in Melbourne and Canberra.
Australian media and officials said several suspicious packages had been delivered to embassies and consulates — including those of the US, Russia, Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and India — on Wednesday.
Preliminary, unverified reports suggested that the words “asbestos” and “wear a mask” were written on the packages.
At least 17 “hazardous material warnings” were issued across Melbourne, including near the Indonesian, Thai, Greek, Egyptian, and Japanese consulates, according to emergency services.
Police said some embassies and consulates in Canberra were also affected but did not name them.
Emergency personnel are seen outside the Indian Consulate in Melbourne, Australia, on January 9, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)
“Police and emergency services have responded to suspicious packages delivered to embassies in Melbourne,” read an Australian Federal Police (AFP) statement on Wednesday.
“The packages are being examined by attending emergency services,” it said. “At this time we believe the matter is targeted and not impacting the general community.”
Reports said some of the diplomatic perimeters had been evacuated. But there were no immediate reports of any harm to staff.
A spokeswoman for the British High Commission also confirmed its office in Melbourne had received a suspicious package.
“We are liaising closely with the AFP (Australian Federal Police) and the local authorities regarding the situation,” she said. “All our staff are safe and accounted for.”
The US Consulate in the city also confirmed it had received a “suspicious” package, which a spokesperson said was handled in coordination with the Melbourne Fire Brigade and the Australian Federal Police, who were “investigating the incident.”
On Monday, a suspicious package was sent to the Argentinean Consulate in Sydney. The incident prompted a large emergency response. Authorities said later that the package had contained non-toxic white powder. No more details were available about the incident.