Parts of Facebook HQ Evacuated After Deadly Nerve Agent Scare

A total of four buildings on the campus were emptied out.
Tuesday 2 July 2019
What a helter-skelter Monday for the social media giant. Photo: AFP

As first reported by NBC Bay Area, several buildings at Facebook’s headquarters located at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park in California have been evacuated after a machine at the social media giant’s mailing facility alerted employees that a package may contain sarin, a potentially deadly nerve agent.

“We evacuated four buildings and are conducting a thorough investigation in coordination with local authorities,” The Verge quoted Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison as saying. “As of now, three buildings have been cleared for repopulation. The safety of our employees is our top priority and we will share additional information when it is available.”

For the uninitiated, sarin is an extremely toxic synthetic organophosphorus compound. A colourless, odourless liquid, it is used as a chemical weapon due to its extreme potency as a nerve agent. If exposure to sarin is not treated early with antidotes, fresh air, and soap, it can kill people. Even a fraction of an ounce of sarin on the skin can mess with the human nervous system enough to be fatal, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The people who came in contact with the suspicious package at about 11am PDT (2am Tuesday, Malaysia time) did not show any symptoms of exposure to sarin, Reuters reported Menlo Park fire marshall Jon Johnston as saying. “The (Facebook) facility tests all of the packages that come in and they had a positive test, so they just initiated their standard protocol. Now we’re just waiting to verify whether that’s true or not,” he said.

Facebook routinely tests packages sent through its mailing facility for dangerous chemicals and substances, Business Insider reported. While it set off alarms, it is unclear if the substance actually is sarin. The package is currently under quarantine and the people who came in contact with it are currently being monitored by authorities.

Sources: NBC Bay Area, The Verge, CBS News, Channel News Asia

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