Police say everybody is safe after bomb threat came via fax, with no suspect yet identified after students at 60 schools taken to safe locations
More than 19,000 students in the small Canadian province of Prince Edward Island were evacuated on Wednesday after police received a threat saying that bombs had been placed at a number of schools. Police said nothing suspicious was found after officers searched all of the schools in the province.
The minister of public safety just informed me that all of the schools children and personnel are safe. The situation is under control, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said at a news conference in Ottawa.
Sgt Kevin Baillie of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the Prince Edward Island threat came via fax on Wednesday morning, and that schools on the normally sleepy island were notified within 10 minutes.
Theres been no threat found. Everybody is safe, he told reporters.
The threat was faxed to police in Canadas capital of Ottawa, Baillie said.
The message stated that the bombs had been placed at a number of schools and would be detonated today, he said.
A senior police official said a swatting-style computer distributed a threat to jurisdictions across Canada and in the US and authorities were trying to locate the source.
Swatting is when someone contacts emergency services to deceive officials and report a bogus threat so that emergency personnel go to a scene. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.
Police in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the central part of Canada are also investigating a threat against the citys largest school division that appears similar to the one on Prince Edward Island.
Police say the Winnipeg school division received a faxed message about 8.30am that contained a threat to all schools within its jurisdiction. Schools were not evacuated or placed in lockdown.
Students at more than 60 English language and French language schools in Prince Edward Island were taken to safe locations by staff outside the schools, where buses met them.
Baillie said bomb threats were hard to evaluate for credibility, but said authorities like to err on the side of caution. This disrupts a lot of lives, he said.
Parents and guardians were asked to wait for further instructions before picking up their children.
Trudeau said he empathized with parents.
As a parent, I know how worrisome this type of situation can be. I know the affected parents must be having a difficult day, Trudeau said.
Parker Grimmer, the islands director of public schools, said police had contacted the school system on Wednesday morning about a threat that was of a significant nature and asked for the evacuation of all schools. He said he expected all students to return to classes on Thursday.
This is new to us, so we are reacting in a new way, Grimmer said. But we have plans and procedures and I think we followed them.
At Holland College in the provincial capital of Charlottetown, a woman burst into the classroom to tell everyone to pick up their books and evacuate immediately, student Morgan McNeil said. Outside, everyone was in a panic and helicopters were flying overhead, he said.
Baillie said similar threats had been made to schools and colleges in the nearby province of Nova Scotia, where the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi campus, Cape Breton University and the NSCC technology campus in Halifax were evacuated.
At least one school in the US was also threatened, he said. It was not immediately clear which one was involved or if it was evacuated.