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Terror alarm in US Senate office building

At least eight senators and more than 200 staff members fled the building after the alarm went off.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 15:38 IST

Several US senators and hundreds of staffers fled a US Senate office building on Wednesday evening after alarms sounded indicating the presence of a chemical or nerve agent in the building.

The Senate Russell office building, which is within a block of the US Capitol, was evacuated around 6.30 pm (23:30 GMT) when the alarm sounded, spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said at a news conference.

There were no reports of injury or any symptoms consistent with a chemical agent, like skin, eye or other irritations, Schneider said.

An initial test on the material came back positive for possible nerve agent, but a second test was negative, Schneider said.

A third test was being conducted at a facility in Washington, Schneider said.

"We are optimistic about the outcome," Schneider told a news channel, adding that the Capitol Police are still waiting on the results of the third test to come back.

At least eight senators and more than 200 staff members fled the building after the alarm went off indicating the presence of a nerve agent in the attic of the building.

The senators and staffers were told to remain in an underground parking garage and not allowed to leave because they may have been contaminated by the agent, a news channel reported.

Schneider said decontamination tents had been set up outside the building, and specialists in handling hazardous chemicals and biological agents were on the scene.

She said she had no information on any threatening notes or other communications.

A spokeswoman for Senator John McCain, who was among those evacuated, said the nature of the evacuation was more urgent than similar evacuations that have occurred since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the posting of letters contaminated with anthrax that were received in the Senate the same year.

Sensors placed in office buildings on Capitol Hill following those incidents are increasingly more sensitive, said Dean Wilkening of Stanford Center for International Security. He said the incident appeared to be a false alarm.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 13:23 IST