ANTHRAX SCARE AT UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC SHOCKS STAFF, STUDENTS

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By Ameeta Nand

SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 30, 2001 - Pasifik Nius/ Wansolwara Online/Niuswire)---Staff and students were evacuated today from the University of the South Pacific book center in an "anthrax scare" after the manager found suspicious powder in his mail.

Bookshop manager Armin Kullack told Wansolwara Online he was checking his mail as usual when he found white powder in one of his letters at 11:30 a.m.

Fire and emergency workers in protective clothing entered the shop, in the heart of USP’s business area, to check out the threat.

Police said the shop would be closed for about three days while investigations were carried out to find the source of the powder found in the mail.

The police have investigated several cases of suspicious white powder in the Fiji mail in recent weeks but all have proved false alarms.

Kullack said that after he opened the envelope and saw the powder. "I thought about it for a few seconds. And then I left the room, washed my hands and said nobody should go into my office."

He then called the authorities.

Provost Filimone Fifita said this first suspected anthrax threat at USP seemed to be a hoax.

But he said the administration took all threats seriously.

"Everyone has to be patient until this is confirmed. But at present every student and staff is advised to remain calm," he said.

The latest anthrax scare at USP comes a week after the chairman of Transparency International and well-known Fiji businessman Iqbal Jannif received a letter containing white powder.

Similar white powder was found in mail delivered to the Director of Public Prosecutions Office and a prominent lawyer in Ba.

Police are still investigating these incidents.

At USP, the Students Association today expressed its disappointment at the indefinite closure of the book center with examinations starting next week.

President James Skeleton said this would affect the students who were now preparing for the exams.

"Access to last-minute book shopping and other stationery will be affected," he said.

Students who were present at the book center said that the anthrax scare was a "deliberate action" by someone to hinder the start of exams.

"I don’t think anyone should be worried about the anthrax threat in Fiji because some people have nothing else to do and they like doing all this," said a second-year student, Nehraz Khan.

A first-year student, Maria Athanol, at the scene said she was scared when she heard about the incident because it seemed so unbelievable.

"I just hope this doesn’t affect our exams dates and our studies," she said.

Title -- 3451 HEALTH: Anthrax scare at USP shocks staff, students Date -- 30 October 2001 Byline -- Ameeta Nanad Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wansolwara Online, 30/10/01 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Abridged

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/  USP Journalism on the Fiji crisis (UTS host): http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/  USP Pasifik Nius stories on Scoop (NZ): http://www.scoop.co.nz/international.htm  Have your say: http://www.TheGuestBook.com/vgbook/109497.gbook  

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