Nerve agent used in ex-spy attack found at UK pub, restaurant

A still image from CCTV footage recorded on Feb. 27 shows ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries at the Bargain Stop convenience store in Salisbury. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
0

Nerve agent used in ex-spy attack found at UK pub, restaurant

LONDON: Traces of a nerve agent used in the suspected attempted murder of a Russian ex-spy have been found in a pub and a restaurant he visited, England’s chief medical officer said Sunday.
Sally Davies said up to 500 people who had visited The Mill pub and the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury, southwest England, needed to wash their clothes and belongings as a precaution.
The March 4 attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is being treated by detectives as attempted murder.
The pair were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury. They remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital.
“There has been some trace contamination by the nerve agent in both The Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury,” Davies said.
“I am confident this has not harmed the health of anyone who was in The Mill pub or Zizzi’s.
“However, some people are concerned long-term exposure to these substances may, over weeks and particularly months, give rise to health problems.
“I am therefore advising ... the people who were in either the restaurant or the pub at 1:30 p.m. last Sunday until evening closing on Monday should clean the clothes they wore and the possessions they handled while there.”
Pub and restaurant-goers were told to wash their clothing in the washing machine, while dry clean-only clothes should be put inside two tied plastic bags and safely stored while awaiting further advice.
Mobile phones, handbags and electronic items should be wiped with sanitary wipes, which should then be disposed of in domestic waste.
Items such as jewelry and spectacles should be hand-washed in warm water and detergent, before being rinsed in cold water.
The risk to public health remained low and the advice was precautionary, Public Health England said.
“It is possible, but unlikely, that any of the substance which has come into contact with clothing or belongings could still be present in minute amounts and therefore contaminate your skin,” PHE said in a statement.
“Over time, repeated skin contact with contaminated items may pose a small risk to health.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Britain’s interior minister, said Saturday that police were examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, had identified more than 240 witnesses, and were plowing through security camera footage.
Around 180 troops, including chemical warfare experts, have been deployed in Salisbury after investigators requested specialist assistance.
Skripal, 66, came to Britain in 2010 as part of a spy swap. He was a former colonel in Russia’s military intelligence who was jailed in his country for betraying agents to Britain’s MI6 secret service.


New Zealand crews reenter coal mine 8 years after 29 killed

This handout photo from the Pike River Family Reference Group taken on and recieved by AFP on May 21, 2019 shows family members and workers hugging after the re-opening of the entrance to the Pike River Mine where 29 miners lost their lives in an explosion in 2010 in the north west of the South Island of New Zealand. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2019
0

New Zealand crews reenter coal mine 8 years after 29 killed

  • The plan won’t allow access into the inner workings of the mine, which are blocked by a massive rockfall

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Crews in New Zealand on Tuesday reentered an underground coal mine where a methane explosion killed 29 workers more than eight years ago, raising hopes among family members that they might find bodies and new evidence that leads to criminal charges.
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the explosion, said the families had been fighting for this ever since the Pike River mine exploded.
“We did it. We won,” she said.
She said it had been a “hugely emotional” day for the families and it was a moving experience to watch people going back into the mine. She said they hope the crews can recover electronic equipment that indicates what went wrong, much like the black box in a plane.
“The families are all hoping that the team going in, with their forensic expertise, will find new evidence for future prosecutions against those who allowed the mine to blow up in first place,” she said.
Nigel Hampton, a lawyer who is acting for the families, said that if they discover what ignited the methane, it could help link acts of negligence with the deaths of the miners and result in charges such as manslaughter.
“There’s still a long way to go yet, but it’s possible,” he said.
Two workers escaped the mine after the deadly November 2010 explosion. After several more explosions, the mine was sealed shut with a concrete barrier.
New Zealand’s previous conservative government concluded the mine remained too unsafe to reenter. But the liberal government elected in 2017, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, reconsidered.
“New Zealand is not a country where 29 people can die at work without real accountability,” said Andrew Little, the minister responsible for Pike River reentry. “That is not who we are. And that is why today we have fulfilled our promise. Today we have returned.”
The plan won’t allow access into the inner workings of the mine, which are blocked by a massive rockfall. It remains unclear how many miners were on either side of the rockfall at the time of the explosion or how many bodies might be recovered.
New Zealand police said they’ll be examining any new evidence from the mine, which they could use to file charges.
An earlier investigation concluded the Pike River Coal company had exposed miners to unacceptable risks as it strove to meet financial targets. The report found the company ignored 21 warnings that methane gas had accumulated to explosive levels before the disaster.
The company, which went bankrupt, didn’t contest labor violation charges against it.
Labor violation charges against former chief executive Peter Whittall were dismissed after he and the company made a financial settlement, a development which angered many of the grieving families. New Zealand’s Supreme Court later ruled the settlement was unlawful.
Whittall moved to Australia about five years ago.