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Back Local News Tumon anthrax scare

Tumon anthrax scare

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Suspicious envelope prompts GVB evacuation

AMID an already edgy state of alert from North Korea’s threats, a poison ricin-contained letter sent to a U.S. lawmaker, and following the Boston bombing, local and federal law enforcers yesterday responded swiftly when the Guam Visitors Bureau issued an alert on the presence of a suspicious powdery substance sealed in an envelope delivered to its office.

Shortly before 8:30 a.m., a GVB staffer called the attention of GVB General Manager Karl A. Pangelinan to an envelope addressed to the Mayor’s Office and GVB.

According to Pangelinan, the envelope had no return address and appeared suspicious, with a letter indicating that the substance was an “anthrax spore,” a lethal substance used as a biological weapon.

Pangelinan immediately called the authorities including Guam Homeland Security. Within a few minutes, the Guam Police Department and Guam Fire Department rushed to GVB and evacuated all employees. The three staffers who came in contact with the letter were quarantined while the rest of the workers, including Pangelinan, were sent to a nearby restaurant.

Members of the Guam National Guard also arrived while GPD members cordoned off the stretch of Tumon, from San Vitores to Bishop Flores Loop by the Marriott Resort and Spa intersection. Traffic was rerouted as the road was shut off from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. while an inspection team examined the powdery substance and surveyed the GVB office.

Initial examination determined that the substance was not anthrax. However, the suspicious envelope was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for further analysis.

Pangelinan said authorities will brief him once tests are completed.

Isolated incident

Pangelinan thanked the law enforcers for their quick response.
“A situation like this is way beyond the GVB’s control. We want to treat it as an isolated incident but we don’t want to take any chances,” Pangelinan said.

“We want to reiterate that Guam is a safe place. We don’t want to create fear among our tourists. What is happening now is completely not related to the North Korea threat and the Boston bombing,” Pangelinan told Variety.

Unprecedented

The anthrax scare in Tumon also came following the death of a Korean tourist who was a victim of a shark attack and drowning. This incident was unprecedented, Pangelinan said.

“Our beaches are protected by coral reefs. The shark attack was a rare incident. Our beaches are safe; our island is safe. And the safety of our visitors is always our top priority,” Pangelinan added.

Pattern of terrorism

A week after the Sept. 11 attack, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others.

Yesterday, a letter-laced with the deadly poison ricin was sent to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., but the envelope was intercepted at a mail facility outside of Washington.

Authorities confirmed the presence of the potentially deadly substance, which is similar to anthrax.

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