Suspicious packages force evacuations of US Consulate, several others in Australia, officials say

Suspicious packages discovered Wednesday forced evacuations at several foreign consulates, including that of the United States, in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Canberra, prompting a police investigation, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries to staff in the buildings.

“The packages are being examined by attending emergency services. The circumstances are being investigated,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement. It wasn’t immediately clear what the packages contained.

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U.S. and British consulate officials confirmed to Reuters that suspicious packages had been discovered at their respective locations.

“We handled the package according to our standard procedures and in close coordination with local authorities … who are investigating the incident,” a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate told Reuters.

Police, fire crews and ambulances were seen at a number of diplomatic offices in Melbourne, including those of India, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Korea. The “VicEmergency” website of the state of Victoria noted at least 10 “hazardous material” incidents in the city.

A firefighter is seen carrying a hazardous material bag into the South Korean consulate in Melbourne. (Associated Press)

A firefighter is seen carrying a hazardous material bag into the South Korean consulate in Melbourne. (Associated Press)

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.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported suspicious packages were also found at the Melbourne consulates of Switzerland, Pakistan and New Zealand, and possibly those of Greece, France, and Hong Kong.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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