Reuters evacuates NY newsroom in powder scare

NEW YORK Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:45pm EDT

1 of 5. New York City Police examine an area of the Reuters newsroom where a letter was opened with 'puff of powder' in it in New York, October 27, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York newsroom of Reuters News was evacuated for nearly three hours on Monday after receiving an envelope with a "puff of powder" in it, Reuters spokeswoman Jolie Hunt said.

Police told staff to evacuate the 19th-floor Times Square newsroom after Brian Rhoads, the company's managing editor for the Americas, opened an envelope and a "puff of powder" came out of it, Hunt said.

Police isolated the envelope, and Rhoads, and then told the 140 members of staff to leave as a precautionary measure while they investigated. Staff made arrangements to ensure the company could put out a news file from other offices.

Nearly three hours later, Hunt said authorities told Reuters the powder was harmless and workers returned to the desk.

The New York office is the headquarters of Thomson Reuters, the parent company, and the newsroom is the firm's second largest after London.

Earlier this month, letters, many containing a suspicious white powder, were sent to Chase bank offices and two other financial institutions in several states and to the New York Times headquarters in New York.

Threatening letters sent to the financial institutions warned "it's payback time," according to a text released by the FBI last week.

U.S. authorities have been on alert for such letters since 2001, when envelopes laced with anthrax were sent to media outlets and U.S. lawmakers, killing five people.

New York police spokesman Paul Browne said no link had been established between the alert at The New York Times and the letters sent to financial institutions, and there was no immediate indication the latest incident was related either.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Claudia Parsons, Editing by Howard Goller and Sandra Maler)

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