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Opera House cordoned off in security scare

Police and security staff standing in front of the Sydney Opera House after it was evacuated on Jan 14.
Police and security staff standing in front of the Sydney Opera House after it was evacuated on Jan 14. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Sydney's iconic Opera House was cordoned off yesterday in a security scare sparked by "information on social media", with people cleared from the harbour front precinct before police declared it safe.

Metal barriers were erected with onlookers kept about 150m away from the building. Police officers and security staff guarded the area in a 90-minute lockdown.

Similar precautions were taken across the harbour at the suburb of Manly on Sydney's northern beaches, which has a ferry linking it to Circular Quay where the Opera House is located.

"Following information on social media, police conducted an operation in the vicinity of the Opera House and Manly as a precautionary measure," Agence France-Presse quoted the New South Wales police statement as saying.

"That police operation has now concluded."

An Opera House tour guide was quoted by local media reports as saying that she had been leading tourists around the building when police arrived.

"My tour was stopped mid-tour... Now I can't get back in," she said.

Tourists milled around the area and took selfies despite security guards and police officers asking them to move on, The Guardian reported.

A Transport Management Centre spokesman said one ferry service was cancelled and another was delayed but all others were running as per normal.

"The 1.20pm Manly to Circular Ferry was cancelled due to a police operation and the 1.40pm Manly to Circular Quay ferry was delayed by 15 minutes," the spokesman told Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

No further information about the police operation was available although the Daily Telegraph said the scare revolved around a threat received about an object inside the Opera House, a World Heritage building.

"It's a search for an object. There was a threat and we have to take it seriously," a police spokesman said.

An Opera House spokesman would not comment.

In January last year, an unattended package left on a Sydney ferry sparked a lockdown of Australia's harbour front.

The package was later revealed to be training equipment used by the transport company running the ferries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Opera House cordoned off in security scare'. Print Edition | Subscribe