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Overheating battery sparks parcel bomb scare

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Overheating battery sparks parcel bomb scare Empty Overheating battery sparks parcel bomb scare

Post  Admin on Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:06 pm

A parcel containing cell phone batteries burst into flames at the International Mail Centre in Hung Hom, sparking fears of a terrorist attack and forcing the evacuation of 510 people yesterday.

Police deployed a bomb disposal robot to the scene to find that the package only contained four cell phone batteries.

One of them had overheated, igniting the parcel, which was sent from Vancouver. No one was injured, but the scare caused the mail center, which handles 1.6 million items per day, to be shut down for 3 hours.

The incident came amid global concerns over the use of parcel bombs by terrorists, following a string of such incidents in Britain, the United Arab Emirates and Greece.

"Smoke was coming from a parcel," said a staff member who witnessed the incident. "A few minutes later, a large plume of smoke began to emerge and the thing caught fire."

Police received a report of smoke at 1.43pm. But the fire was put out by staff before officers arrived. Police and fire services rushed to the scene while the police bomb disposal unit was called in.

The parcel was about half the size of an A4 document and posted from Vancouver via surface mail.

Under international postal rules, batteries cannot be posted by air mail. But Hongkong Post accepts parcels containing batteries sent by surface mail because there is no international rule banning it.

Police believe no foul play was involved in the incident.

Center management services official Chan Yuk-fun said the fire damaged about 10 items, all mailed from Canada.

Two items were so badly scorched that the addresses are illegible. But the recipients of the other packages will be contacted as soon as possible, Chan said.

Officials at the mail center are on high alert for parcel bombs in view of a spate of such incidents in recent days.

Two weeks ago, authorities in Britain and the UAE foiled a parcel bomb plot against the United States, in which two packages addressed to a Chicago synagogue contained explosives stored in printer ink cartridges.

Days later, more than a dozen explosive devices were found in mail sent to embassies in the Greek capital Athens and to European governments.

One meant for the Mexican embassy exploded, injuring a courier firm employee. Another was addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is mired in a controversy over pension reform.


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