ANTHRAX SCARE REACHES NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

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By John Ravelo Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 17, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)---Panic gripped post office employees in Capitol Hill yesterday after a lady attendant spotted a suspicious-looking package, prompting her to call the Emergency Management Office.

A white, powdery substance leaked from the package when the employee pulled out a box at the USPS in Capitol Hill, said Emergency Management Office Director Gregorio Deleon Guerrero.

"Out of concern, she called our office to see if we can ascertain what was in it because of the deep anthrax scare in the United States, and she was concerned of her health," Guerrero told reporters.

Teams from the EMO, the Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Public Health responded to the call.

"I called the Governor and informed him of the situation. I called the Secretary of Health, and the Commissioner of DPS and we all responded to the area," Guerrero said.

The USPS in Capitol Hill is just less than a hundred meters away from the EMO's headquarters.

Upon arriving at the scene, Guerrero said government teams decontaminated some employees, by letting them take off their clothes, go to a 10-minute shower, and change their attire.

Ingram said that when he arrived at the scene, USPS employees were already evacuated from the Capitol Hill building. He said that, although the substance later turned out to be non-hazardous, the call caused fright among those in the vicinity.

"Actually, we had a scare until it was determined that it was not hazardous," Ingram said. He said the substance, which was contained in a box, was approximately three ounces.

Initially, the DEA conducted a test on the substance, which turned out to be negative for illegal drugs. The consignee of the package was then contacted through the FBI.

"When the consignee for the shipment came, we asked him questions on what he thought that substance might be," Guerrero said. The substance is something that is mixed with epoxy, a type of adhesive, which is used in golf clubs.

"To our relief, it was nothing more than just for golf club purposes," said Guerrero. But he said that the response served as a good drill for emergency response units.

Authorities advised the public to be cautious when receiving suspicious-looking mail that bears an unknown return address or none at all.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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