Australia Police Examining Suspicious Packages Left at Consulates

The incidents come after Sydney's Argentinian consulate was partially evacuated on Monday after reports of a suspicious substance

Several foreign diplomatic missions were evacuated in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Canberra on Wednesday 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 U.S. and Swiss missions in the city said they had also received packages.

A spokesperson for the U.S. consulate general in Melbourne confirmed they had received a suspicious package: "We handled the package according to our standard procedure and in close correspondence with local authorities – Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police - who are investigating the incident."

The Vic Emergency website, the collective body of emergency agencies in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, noted at least 10 "hazardous material" incidents in the city, though by Wednesday night none of those incidents was listed as ongoing.

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

Victoria Police said they believed the incidents were targeted and did not impact the general community.

Australian Federal Police said in a statement that "the circumstances surrounding these incidents are being investigated."

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 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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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