Australia police examining packages left at consulates

SYDNEY (AP) – Several foreign diplomatic missions were evacuated in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Canberra yesterday after they received packages containing suspicious substances.

Police, fire crews and ambulances were seen at a number of foreign consulates in Melbourne, including those of India, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Korea. Officials at the US and Swiss missions in the city said they had also received packages.

The government Vic Emergency website noted at least 10 “hazardous material” incidents in the city.

There were no reports of anyone being injured at the targetted missions in both cities.

“The circumstances surrounding these incidents are being investigated,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

Firefighters, right, are seen outside the Indian and French consulates on St Kilda Road in Melbourne. – AP

The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported that a worker from the New Zealand consulate in Melbourne had said the packages in question were envelopes labelled “asbestos.” Inside were plastic sandwich bags containing a fibrous material.

The ABC reported suspicious packages were also found at the Melbourne diplomatic offices of Pakistan and possibly those of Greece, France and Hong Kong. It said the Israeli Embassy in Canberra also received a suspicious package.

It was not immediately clear which other countries’ diplomatic missions in the national capital were affected, if any.

Two firetrucks, a hazardous materials vehicle and police cars were seen at India’s consulate in Melbourne, where staff members had been evacuated, some wearing protective masks.

Staff were later allowed to re-enter the building, which was deemed safe by Vic Emergency, the collective body of emergency agencies in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital.

The incidents come after Sydney’s Argentinian consulate was partially evacuated on Monday after reports of a suspicious substance. The powder, contained in clear plastic bags within an envelope, was subsequently deemed not dangerous.