The Straits Times
Published on Sep 05, 2012

Powder scare at Swiss postal centre was starch: Police


GENEVA (AFP) - A mysterious powder that spurred the evacuation of Switzerland's largest postal service centre turned out to be harmless starch, police in the canton of Zurich said on Wednesday.

Some 220 people were evacuated from the building in the Schlieren district north of Zurich late Tuesday after workers at the facility complained that white powder found in two letters had made them ill.

In all, 34 people were sent to hospital, but by Wednesday they had all been released, the ATS news agency reported. Doctors who arrived on the scene found that a number of people were showing symptoms of poisoning, including headaches, vomiting and respiratory difficulties.

When questioned by ATS, Roland Portmann of the Zurich police rescue services could not explain how harmless starch could have provoked such symptoms, but suggested there may have been a nervous reaction to the stressful situation and evacuation.