Expatica news

Postal worker ill, but anthrax ruled out

19 July 2004

AMSTERDAM — An employee of Dutch postal company TPG fell ill on Sunday after handling an item that he said contained a yellow powder. Initial tests ruled out anthrax contamination, but the mystery substance has not yet been identified.
The postal item originated from a post box on the Prinses Julianalaan on the corner of the Alkmaar Medical Centre. The postal worker fell ill when collecting mail from the post box.

But the man was well enough to drive to the TPG distribution centre in Alkmaar North, where six of his colleagues were also working. Four workers came in contact with the postal deliverer, one of whom touched the package.

The ill employee complained of breathing problems and eye irritation and was taken as a precautionary measure to hospital. He was released several hours later and TPG-Post said on Monday he was doing well

The other worker who touched the package complained of irritation to the hands, but this abated over time. None of the six people working in the distribution centre on Sunday have reported any further problems, news agency ANP said.

The discovery of the suspect package comes after the Netherlands issued a general terrorism alert on 9 July. The Dutch secret service AIVD has warned that Islamic extremists might be preparing an attack.

Meanwhile, a sample of the postal item’s contents was taken to the research institute ID-Lelystad, where it will undergo further tests. Police said initial tests ruled out anthrax, but the substance has not yet been identified. 

The postal worker said the package contained a yellow substance and police have been unable to explain the incident. The TPG distribution centre was cordoned off on Sunday night as microbiological investigations were carried out.

Police said on Monday that fire extinguishers were found in the vicinity of the Prinses Julianalaan and the discovery indicated the suspect substance could have originated from the extinguishers. The powder used in such equipment can be extremely irritating.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, five people died and 17 were injured in the US when anthrax in powder form was sent through the mail, sparking global concern of biological terror attacks.

Envelopes with white powder soon started arriving in mailboxes right across the globe, including the Netherlands. All of them were found to be harmless and Dutch authorities prosecuted several people for sending “joke” anthrax letters.

[Copyright Expatica news 2004]

Subject: Dutch news