The gas, reportedly mercaptan, caused coughing, high blood pressure and heartbeats
An known chemical substance was sprayed in one of the department stores of the Maxidom commercial network in St.Petersburg. “Emergency services received information about the unknown substance which had been sprayed in one of the department stores of the Maxidom commercial network in St.Petersburg. Dozens of people have been reportedly hospitalized with gas poisoning,” a spokesperson for the Russian Emergency Ministry in St.Petersburg told Interfax.
Suspicious boxes with wires sticking out of them were found in two other stores of the same network. According to Fontanka.Ru news website, 78 people (both customers and shopping personnel) have been hospitalized with gas poisoning.
Cylinder-shaped containers with ampoules and timers have been found in four stores of the shopping network. The ampoules contained a substance with a strong garlic odor.
Similar devices with ampoules and timers have been reportedly found in all stores of the Maxidom network. “The ampoules opened when someone touched the containers,” a spokesman for the emergency service of St.Petersburg told Interfax.
The people have been reportedly poisoned with mercaptan. “Specialists are currently analyzing the substance found in the ampoules. Doctors have examined all the people who suffered from the poisoning,” a police officer said.
According to eyewitnesses, the gas poisoning caused coughing, palpitation and increased blood pressure.
A washerwoman incidentally hit a bag on the floor when cleaning the floor. One could smell a very unpleasant odor in the hall immediately after one of the ampoules fell out of the bag and broke. The management of the store decided to evacuate the customers and the personnel and reported the incident to the city's emergency services.
Maxidom is a St.Petersburg-based network of department stores selling household goods.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969