Scores sickened after release of gas in St. Petersburg store
Monday 26 December 2005
More than 70 people were sickened after gas was released Monday in a chain store and boxes with glass containers attached to wires were found in three other outlets of the same store. Police said they believed a commercial dispute or blackmail attempt was behind the incidents.
A spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, Viktor Beltsov, said 78 people sought medical care and 66 of them were hospitalized. None of them were assessed as being in life-threatening condition, he said.
A spokesman for the St. Petersburg police, Vyacheslav Stepchenko, later said 15 people were hospitalized. It was not immediately clear if the discrepancy meant that some people had been released.
Stepchenko said the gas was preliminarily determined to be methyl mercaptan. The U.S. Health and Human Services' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says methyl mercaptan is a gas smelling like rotten cabbage that is both naturally occurring and manufactured for use in plastics and pesticides.
The agency's Web site said little is known about the gas's potential health effects. One person exposed to very high concentrations of the gas went into a coma and died, the Web site says.
Stepchenko said that a custodian at a branch of the Maksidom home-supplies chain found a suspicious box before the store's opening and when she opened the box, she found ampoules attached to wires and a timer. The woman inadvertently broke one of the ampoules and noticed a repulsive smell, but apparently was not sickened, he said.
All those who sought medical care were from another branch of the chain, Stepchenko said. Boxes with glass containers attached to timers were found in two other stores by employees, who carried them outside and covered them with buckets; police explosives experts defused them, he said.
Officials of the store chain, which has outlets only in St. Petersburg and sells furnishings, home-repair material and other domestic articles, had told police that they had received threatening letters in recent weeks, Stepchenko said.
The letters threatened to disrupt the company's sales during the holiday gift-buying period, the managers said, according to Stepchenko. New Year's Eve is a traditional gift-giving day in Russia, the equivalent of Western celebrations of Christmas.
Police initially are considering the incidents as "hooliganism."
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...