Workers OK after postal powder scare

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All 44 workers at a postal terminal in the small town of Stokke have been released from hospital after being exposed to a mysterious white powder Thursday night that leaked from a damaged brevpakke (padded envelope). Officials have determined the powder contained nothing biologically infectious and it later turned out to be flour.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that 14 of the employees at the terminal in Vestfold County, around a 90-minute drive southwest of Oslo, experienced sore throats, redness and itching after being exposed to the powder. It remained unclear why that would happen if was only flour. Those affected were sent by bus for treatment at the hospital in nearby Tønsberg, while 30 others were sent for checkups.

‘No serious symptoms’
All were released by mid-morning on Friday after an analysis of the powder at the Norwegian military’s research institute (Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt, FFI) determined it was not dangerous or infectious. Hospital officials said none of the postal employees had any serious symptoms. Those complaining of redness and itching were observed through the night “and are in good shape,” hospital spokesperson Merete Bugsett Lindahl told NRK. “Therefore the hospital determined it was fine to send them home.”

FFI’s special laboratory could rule out any biological infectious material in the powder. It did set off alarms, with the state police’s bomb team sent from Oslo to examine the package and handle the powder, which they sent to FFI at Kjeller, northeast of Oslo. The terminal was also immediately closed.

It remained unclear who sent the package. Police wouldn’t reveal the identity or address of its intended recipient. “Our job now is to track where it came from,” Knut Erik Ågrav, leader of the police investigative unit in Tonsberg, told NRK.

Similar incident in Stockholm
All post was halted both in and out of the Stokke terminal, delaying deliveries in a widespread area of eastern Norway on Friday.

A postal terminal in southern Stockholm also rang alarms early Friday morning after suspicious powder was found in two packages. There were no injuries and it was unclear whether there was any connection to the Stokke incident in Norway.

“Swedish police have taken contact with us,” police operations leader in Vestfold told Norwegian newspaper VG. “We can’t rule out the relevance, but can’t see any direct connection.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund