UPDATE, 2.45PM: Police said in a press release on Friday afternoon that the white powder that led to the evacuation of a mail distribution centre was a harmless flour product that contain no foreign substances.
“We are of course pleased that there were no dangerous chemicals in the powder,” police spokesman Knut Erik Ågrav said.
Ågrav said that police are continuing to investigate who sent the envelope and said the incident was “serious and will have major consequences”.
“Both the police and the hospital used a lot of resources on this,” he told NRK.
ORIGINAL, 8.30AM: Fourteen postal workers were sent to hospital after being exposed to an unknown substance from a letter in the mail distribution centre in Stokke on Thursday night and another 30 were admitted for check-ups.
The workers were exposed to a white powder that came out of a ripped envelope.
“The Oslo Police bomb squad has been on site. They have secured the envelope and its contents and sent it to the [Norwegian Defence Research Establishment] in Kjeller,” Vestfold Police operations manager Per Andreassen said.
Police said that those exposed to the powder reported a physical reaction.
“When the staff at the distribution centre processed the envelope, it cracked. Then several of them experienced itching skin and burning in the throat. They then threw the envelope into a plastic bag and into a safe,” police spokesman Espen Solemdal said.
The incident occurred at a mail distribution centre located in Borgeskogen near Stokke. As of early Friday morning, police could not yet say anything about who the envelope was addressed to or who had sent it.
By 4.30am on Friday, the police bomb squad, which is trained to handle dangerous chemicals, had finished its work inside the building but the centre willl remain closed until officials get a handle on what the unknown white substance in the envelope was, police said.
“The bomb squad did some tests on the premises, but received no immediate answer as to what the substance is,” Andreassen said.
The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) has now been tasked with identifying the substance in its laboratories, which are specialized in substances that may pose a biological or radiological threat.
Vestfold Hospital officials said that those who were exposed to the substance are not displaying severe symptoms. In all, 44 people were sent to hospital. In addition to the 14 that were exposed, an additional 30 people who were in the building but not directly exposed to the powder were sent in for a health check.
“The 14 who were exposed to the substance have undergone infection control procedures and have been put in isolation until police find out what the substance is,” the hospital’s communications manager, Merete Lindahl, said.
Later on Friday it was revealed that a potentially hazardous white powder was also found in a letter at a Swedish mail centre in southern Stockholm.
Stockholm Police told The Local they haven’t ruled out a connection between the two events.
“We haven’t ruled anything out yet, the investigation is still ongoing. We’ll see how it progresses over the course of the day,” spokesperson Akbari concluded.