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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Asia hit by Anthrax scares
New Zealand postal worker
Overseas mail is being carefully checked in New Zealand
Confirmed cases of anthrax in the United States have sparked fears of attacks throughout Asia.

One of the worst affected is Australia where Prime Minister John Howard said 57 suspected attacks were reported on Monday - of which seven involved powdery substances - but all appeared to have been hoaxes.

Decontamination of emergency worker in Australia
Emergency services are taking no chances in Australia
Further scares emerged on Tuesday, including an incident at the offices of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (ACCA) where a Christmas card was opened that contained a white granulated powder.

An ACCA spokeswoman said their offices in Sydney had received similar envelopes that were being investigated.

Politicians have called for hoaxers to be made liable for the full cost of deploying the emergency services to deal with the scare.

In Hong Kong, the authorities on Tuesday sought to calm fears after police reported two separate incidents involving suspicious letters the day before.

Security officials said there was no intelligence suggesting Hong Kong might be a target, and that local hospitals were capable of dealing with the virus.

Postal workers have been given guidance on how to handle possibly contaminated mails and parcels.

Meanwhile in China checks have been ordered on suspicious mail.

Japanese postal worker
Anthrax scare in Japan proved to be a false alarm
Security is already tight in the southern city of Shanghai, which is this week hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, including a summit of leaders of the 21 member countries at the weekend.

In Japan eight people received precautionary treatment after an envelope containing unidentified white powder was found at a post office in the northern city of Fukushima.

The authorities later said no trace of anthrax or any other germ had been detected in the incident.

Everybody's on edge... when something happens out of the ordinary you put the worst interpretation on it

NZ Foreign Minister Phil Goff
Japan has tightened postal checks and urged its citizens to report all suspicious mail to the police.

Post offices are using x-ray machines to screen all international mail and parcels that have no return address, and at the central post office in Tokyo, workers have started wearing masks.

New Zealand suffered an anthrax scare on Tuesday when a post office in the town of Eltham, about 200km (125 miles) north of Wellington, was evacuated after a suspicious powder was found in a mail bag.

Gas masks and gloves are available for postal workers in South Korea
Gas masks and gloves are available for postal workers in South Korea
Four postal workers were decontaminated and the powder was taken for analysis.

"Everybody's on edge. When something happens out of the ordinary you put the worst interpretation on it," Foreign Minister Phil Goff said.

In South Korea postal workers handling international mail have started using gas masks and gloves.

All major public and private facilities in the capital - such as subway stations, cinemas, department stores - have been asked to hold at least one drill by November. They have been told to stock up on gas masks.

In Thailand and the Philippines, people have been advised to inspect their post carefully for stains or powder marks before opening.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Government has said it will co-operate fully with US investigations into a letter bearing a Malaysian postmark, containing anthrax, which was sent to an office of software giant Microsoft in Reno, Nevada.

But Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he was still waiting for the US to display the evidence.

"They don't give us any information," he said. "Once we get the information, we will investigate."

See also:

14 Oct 01 | Americas
NY urged not to panic over anthrax
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
09 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax infection
25 Jul 01 | Scotland
Britain's 'Anthrax Island'
15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
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