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Powder scare at US consulate

Top News | Sum Lok-kei Nov 14, 2017
Visa and consular services at the American consulate general in Central were suspended yesterday after a letter containing a white powder was found inside the building.

The powder was later found to be harmless and the services will be resumed today, a spokesman said.

He apologized to the public for the inconvenience, saying the safety of staff and visitors had to be prioritized.

The consulate said an envelope containing the powder was found in the morning, but sources said the powder was scattered inside a document-collection box. There was no letter, note or anything suspicious.

Police were notified at 9.14am and dozens of visa applicants and staff were moved out of the complex on Garden Road in Central. At one point, the road was partly closed by police.

Some applicants were told via text messages that their appointments had been canceled. Others were unaware of the incident and arrived at the consulate.

Visa applicant Pun, one of those moved out, said he was planning to visit the United States next month and hopes he'll be able to get his visa soon.

Officers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau entered the building with others dressed in protective gear. After investigating for about two hours, officers left with a white box containing the power for further tests.

The section of road outside the complex was reopened at noon and at 1.10pm the consulate general issued another statement saying the issue had been resolved and services would be resumed today.

It also advised applicants and visitors to visit its website or contact the office before going there.

It asked non-immigrant visa applicants to reschedule their appointments online while immigrant visa applicants will be contacted individually for rescheduling.

"We will reschedule appointments as soon as possible, but it will also depend on applicants' availability," a spokeswoman said.

The consulate general did not say how many appointments were cancelled yesterday.

In September, 14 powder-loaded letters were sent to offices at the Convention Plaza Office Tower in Wan Chai.

The powder was found to have been flour and the letters had targeted an investment adviser who worked at the building.

The Malaysian embassy as well as the Monetary Authority have also received suspicious letters containing powder from a Public Bank customer unhappy about the lender in 2014.

The Security Bureau said people receiving postal items containing suspicious powder should not shake or open the package.

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October 2018