Taiwan’s representative office in Melbourne, Australia, received a suspicious package on Jan. 9, alongside 37 other packages sent to consulates and embassies across Australia.
Diplomatic missions across Australia were evacuated as a precautionary measure, with no casualties reported. Some packages were labeled with the word “asbestos.”
A man was arrested in the Victorian town of Shepparton, with police suspecting that the material sent to diplomatic missions came from his home. The man is charged with sending dangerous articles via the postal service, reported The Australian.
The ABC and Fairfax Media report that the packages contained cement and broken tiles in regular envelopes, with some packages including a note reading “asbestos.”
Emergency services were called to French, Greek, Indian, Italian, New Zealand, Pakistani, South Korean, Spanish, Swiss and U.S. consulates in Melbourne on Jan. 9.
The British, Greek, Indian, New Zealand, South Korean, Spanish, Taiwanese, and Turkish consulates in Melbourne were also evacuated.
In an incredible coincidence, Australian authorities practiced an emergency drill including hazmat response at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, on the day that the package was opened by its sister office in Melbourne.
The Australian Federal Police said that 29 packages were being examined, and that the incidents were under investigation. The Victoria state police said on Jan. 9 that they believe the incidents are targeted, and that the general public is not at great risk.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the matter had been referred to the Australian Federal Police, as well as Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The representative office will also work closely with Australian authorities on this matter.
DFAT said in a statement it had warned all diplomatic missions in Australia to be weary of opening mail on Jan. 8, after learning that suspicious packages were sent to three embassies and consulates in Canberra and Sydney on Jan. 7.
DFAT said it warned all consulates to be on “high alert,” the day before at least 10 packages were found.