Attack victims 'will be stripped'

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The Independent Online

Tens of thousands of people within a quarter of a mile of a terrorist chemical or biological attack would be stripped of their clothes - including watches and wedding rings - an official document seen by The Independent on Sunday reveals. Only "in exceptional circumstances" would they be allowed to keep items such as the keys to their own front doors.

Tens of thousands of people within a quarter of a mile of a terrorist chemical or biological attack would be stripped of their clothes - including watches and wedding rings - an official document seen by The Independent on Sunday reveals. Only "in exceptional circumstances" would they be allowed to keep items such as the keys to their own front doors.

The document, prepared by the Home Office in late February, adds that even the largest police forces would be stretched to cope with such an attack, and provides further evidence that Britain is not yet fully prepared for one.

The revelations follow last week's announcement that terrorists had been planning to launch an attack in Britain with a chemical called osmium tetroxide. Security experts cast doubt on whether the chemical would prove an effective weapon, but David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, claimed that the plot justified his introduction of draconian measures to combat terrorism.

The document shows that an area with a radius of at least 600 yards would be sealed off after an attack. Everyone within a 400-yard "hot zone" would be "decontaminated" - stripped of clothing and possessions and washed down.

It shows that, two and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, plans are still "being developed" to vaccinate key workers. Sources in the Government said the Office of the Deputy Prime Ministerhad to delay issuing guidance on decontaminating buildings last month because it could not find the money to give to local authorities to do the work. Yesterday the ODPM would only say that the guidance will be published "soon".

* The European Union will simulate a major biological weapon attack this year, which hits several countries at the same time, after Brussels admitted to serious gaps in the ability of different countries to plan for and cope with mass casualties. The desktop exercise - the largest of its kind ever staged by the EU - will link all 15 EU capitals.

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