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Collective sigh of relief : Stolen cyanide found


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I guess we can all breathe easier now - literally....

Stolen Cyanide Found in Mexico

Wed May 29, 7:34 PM ET

By AMPARO TREJO, Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A rural policeman in central Mexico stumbled across 70 drums of sodium cyanide near a dirt road Wednesday, following an 18-day nationwide search for a stolen shipment of the deadly poison, some of which may still be missing.

Soldiers wearing paper masks raced to cordon off the hilly countryside around Honey, a district in Puebla state about 80 miles north of Mexico City, after the officer found the blue plastic barrels off a dirt trail, said the municipality's secretary, Juvencio Miranda.

Mexico's defense department said there were 70 containers and that they appeared to be part of the shipment of 96 drums of cyanide stolen along with a chemical company truck May 10.

Twenty of the drums were found along with the abandoned truck a week later. State and local officials have given varying numbers for the drums found and some of the stolen cyanide could still be missing.

Water supplies to Honey were cut as a precaution against possible cyanide contamination, as experts at the scene tested the substance.

Honey is a mountainous district whose 11 villages hold 7,300 people. It is about 25 miles northwest of the spot where the truck was found and about 75 miles east of where it was stolen.

Miranda said when he visited the site, he saw between 60 and 64 blue, 220-pound drums of cyanide that had been dumped a few yards off a dirt road.

"You can see that they tossed them out and they are all turned over," he said, adding at least two were open.

The Defense Department later issued a statement saying 70 containers had been recovered and that they were similar to those stolen.

Mexican and U.S. officials were alarmed by the May 10 hijacking of a truck carrying 96 such drums of cyanide — roughly 10 tons. Twenty of the drums were found abandoned with the truck on May 16.

Mexican authorities had mounted a large search for the cyanide and U.S. anti-terrorism officials had alerted customs and state agencies to watch for the blue drums.

There have been reports from New Zealand and Italy of cyanide threats against U.S. embassies in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Sodium cyanide is used in gold and silver mining. If inhaled or ingested, it attacks the nervous system and can cause a person to suffocate within minutes.

The driver of the cyanide truck, Juan Carlos Alberto Lopez, was under guarded house arrest in Pachuca, Hidalgo's capital, about 55 miles north of Mexico City.

Lopez admitted to improperly leaving the main highway to take a shortcut, a secondary road toward the company that sells the cyanide, Degussa Mexico. He said he stopped — also against regulations — to help men in an apparently disabled car. He said those men pulled guns on him and stole his truck.

It was not the first incident involving the poison in Mexico.

About 220 pounds of sodium cyanide were found near a railroad track in northwestern Mexico on May 23. Officials said it apparently had fallen off of a train.

In late February, a truck loaded with 28 tons of cyanide crashed on an expressway east of Mexico City, forcing closure of the country's main east-west highway for 12 hours

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Yesterday afternoon "apparently" there were still missing 6 drums of cyanide or cianuro (in spanish), but this morning the Mexican Army reported that they had found about 1,100 lbs more inside platic bags and some of it was dispersed on the ground. But there are @ 220 lb. still missing.

There are no wittneses of this dumping, in fact the cianuro was found by sheer luck, when a local cop, made an unschedule patrol on the back road when he literally bumped the drums containig the cyanide.

This information appeared in this morning news program in Television Azteca (national network)

I'll be updating this regularly.

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