Geneva bomb scare causes chaos

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Geneva, Switzerland — Yesterday (October 10, 2006) a bomb scare occurred in Geneva. More than 30,000 people were evacuated from the main station Cornavin and the Globus Department store. By 20:00 Swiss Time (18:00 UTC) the alert was called off. Over 40 trains were cancelled and the scare caused mass havoc in the centre of Geneva.

"Ce message s'addresse aux forces de Police: deux bombes ont été posées à deux endroits stratégiques. Une, à Cornavin et une au centre commerciale Globus. Nos demandes sont...

"This message is addressed to the Police Forces: two bombs have been placed at two strategic positions. One at Cornavin [Geneva's main station] and one at the Globus shopping centre. Our demands are as follows...' The line then cut off.

That was the message received by the alert centre of the Police at 17:12 Swiss time (15:12 UTC), causing a massive evacuation. An anonymous caller called 117, (the Police number in Switzerland). At 18:00 Swiss time (16:00 UTC) in the middle of rush hour, railway police began asking people to leave the main station building [Cornavin]. In a matter of minutes the entire station was empty. All trains were stopped at Lausanne, or had they already by-passed the station, they were to halt at the nearest station ahead of them.

The famed Jet d'Eau of Geneva

These halts caused the stranding of more than 30,000 passengers. All trams were stopped causing major traffic jams. There were similar happenings in the Globus department store where staff and shoppers were evacuated without hassle. As no bomb was found in the store, the Police Line bands were removed at 19:23 Swiss Time (17:23 UTC). However, the search continued in the bigger Cornavin station, but shortly after 20:00 Swis Time (18.00 UTC) the danger in the station was decided to be non-existent.

The Place Cornavin

Christophe Zawadaski, spokesperson for the police, explained that the search took a long time because the bomb-sniffing dogs found a suspicious bag in a train. But "luckily there was no bomb inside" he said. The first train left again at 20:45 Swiss Time (18:45 UTC).

The SBB-CFF-FFS (The Swiss Federal Railway company) say around 40 trains were cancelled. Police say there are no links between this event and the alert of a possible attack on the UN building last week, which was leaked to the press, and was meant to be a top-secret document. Geneva police have not yet made an arrest following this false alert. But, if whoever caused this panic is caught, Swiss penal code decrees anyone accused of a fallacious tip-off is liable to three years in prison.