Hazmat training coincidence at US Embassy as AFP investigates packages
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Hazmat training coincidence at US Embassy as AFP investigates packages

An apparent extraordinary coincidence brought a hazmat truck to the US Embassy for a training exercise while federal police investigated suspicious packages received at diplomatic missions in Canberra on Wednesday.

Australian Federal Police revealed embassies in the national capital had received packages in addition to consulates in Melbourne, where staff were evacuated from buildings.

The AFP would not identify the embassies in Canberra affected but the US Embassy, and the UK and New Zealand high commissions confirmed they had not received suspicious packages in the ACT.

A hazmat response truck leaves the US Embassy in Canberra on Wednesday.

A hazmat response truck leaves the US Embassy in Canberra on Wednesday.Credit:Karleen Minney

As police investigated the packages received in the national capital, an ACT Fire and Rescue vehicle and a large hazmat response truck were seen at the US Embassy in Yarralumla.

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ACT Emergency Services Agency said that upon the US Embassy's request, ACT Fire and Rescue conducted a review of the building's hazardous materials safety arrangements on Wednesday.

"ACT Fire and Rescue did not attend any hazmat related incidents today," a spokeswoman said.

The AFP said emergency services examined packages in Melbourne and Canberra after they were reported.

"Police and emergency services have responded to suspicious packages delivered to embassies and consulates in Canberra and Melbourne," an AFP statement said.

"The circumstances surrounding these incidents are being investigated."

More than 10 international consulates and embassies in Melbourne and Canberra have been sent suspicious packages containing white powder, some reportedly marked with the word "asbestos".

The South Korean, Indian and New Zealand consulates in Melbourne were all evacuated after receiving packages.

The US consulate in the Victorian capital was placed in lockdown at 1.30pm after staff scanned a suspicious package and discovered it contained white powder.

Suspicious packages were also delivered to the British, Spanish, Greek, Taiwanese and Turkish consulates.

There were unconfirmed reports that packages were sent to the Italian, Thai, Swiss and Egyptian consulates.

The AFP would not comment further on the matter.

Doug Dingwall is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service and politics.

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