UPDATE - Canada Parliament partly closed in chemical scare
OTTAWA - Parts of Canada\'s Parliament were sealed off yesterday after two separate incidents in which female employees developed rashes, one of them upon handling a piece of mail, police said.
A senior official from the ruling Liberal party initially told reporters that the employee involved in the first incident had opened an envelope containing a mysterious white powder. But a police spokesman later said no powder had been involved.
\"With respect of what was being handled by this person, nothing was broken - no seals, nothing was leaking, no traces of any kind of substances, liquid or powder, have been found,\" Staff Sergeant Marc Richer told reporters.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle received a letter laced with a powder that investigators said had tested positive for the deadly anthrax bacteria. There have been no signs of anthrax in Canada to date.
Richer said the mail that the parliamentary employee was handling had been taken to an Ottawa laboratory for initial analysis. The employee was hospitalized.
\"At this point we have no threat associated with this event,\" he said.
The fire department took no chances, sending in a special hazardous chemical team in protective suits to seal off the employee\'s office and disinfect 16 co-workers.
Later in the day another part of Parliament Hill was sealed off after reports that a second woman had developed a rash.
\"It came up all of a sudden. We\'re taking all precautions possible,\" Ottawa fire department spokesman Chris Whitney told reporters.
In Toronto, a post office, a fire station and a local newspaper were evacuated yesterday while a police officer was put in quarantine after Canada Post reported finding a suspicious white powder among commercial brochures.
Government whip Marlene Catterall told reporters that the first woman who developed a rash had worked in the journals section of Parliament.
One ministerial aide said he saw people wearing head-to-toe hazardous material suits in the area that had been cordoned off and said the security guards were all wearing protective gloves.
\"It\'s the most bizarre thing, and it is really starting to hit home,\" he said. Police have already significantly tightened security around the Parliament buildings in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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