Oddly Enough

Watch thieves hide behind flu masks

People wear surgical face masks as they gather outside of buildings after earthquake in Mexico City April 27, 2009.Southern Mexico was hit by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake on Monday that shook buildings in the capital, Mexico City, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or damage. Hundreds of people evacuated buildings in the capital, many of them wearing surgical face masks due to the deadly swine flu outbreak that is suspected of causing 149 deaths in Mexico. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Three armed thieves wore the blue surgical masks now ubiquitous in flu-hit Mexico City to hide their faces as they robbed watches from a department store, Mexican media said Monday.

Employees and security guards at a branch of the Sanborns department store told the daily Excelsior the thieves were able to slip through the shop Sunday without attracting attention as they blended into a sea of masked shoppers.

One of the robbers threatened store assistants with a gun while another guarded the door and the third helped himself to watches from the jewelry department.

Mexico is in the grip of a new strain of flu that has killed up to 149 people and set off a major global health scare after infecting people in the United States, Canada and Europe, raising fears of a flu pandemic.

Banks in the Mexican capital have been forced to abandon normal rules over not letting in customers wearing face coverings as the government took emergency measures over the weekend and advised residents in the crowded city to wear face masks at all times outside their homes.

Reporting by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Eric Beech