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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 2:35 p.m., Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Test on downtown letter proves negative for anthrax

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

A letter received by a downtown Honolulu architectural firm was found to be harmless after officials initially suspected it was contaminated with the anthrax bacteria.

Honolulu Fire Department hazardous material personnel spray a member of their team at the intersection of Merchant and Bethel streets. Officials gave the all-clear by 2:30 p.m.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Honolulu Fire Capt. Richard Soo said a test at a Navy laboratory at Pearl Harbor showed no presence of anthrax.

Officials gave the all-clear after emergency crews had shut down Bethel Street in downtown Honolulu at 11 a.m. today following preliminary tests that came up positive for the bacteria.

Group 70, an architectural firm on the fifth floor of the McCandless Building at 925 Bethel St., received a letter-sized resume with a return address for Saudi Arabia, said Mayor Jeremy Harris. The envelope did not contain any powder in it, but there was a "gritty feel" to the paper, according to Harris, who was at the scene this afternoon releasing information.

The Honolulu Fire Department sent crews with new field test machines that the city received last week. Three tests were conducted, Harris said. The first, a visual assessment, was positive for anthrax; the letter was then put through an optical scanner and those results were positive as well. A second test through the optical scanner was negative, however. The mayor said the field test machines have an accuracy rate of 95 percent.

The letter was then sent to the Navy for further testing.

While officials awaited the results, McCandless Building was locked down, with 100 people still inside. No one in the building who had come in contact with the letter was decontaminated.

Police closed off Bethel Street from South King Street to Nimitz Highway. There were no evacuations in the area. Hazardous material crews left the area at about 2:30 p.m.