NEWS

Halkida to host bio defense lab

A state-of-the-art mobile laboratory designed to help protect the Olympics against attacks using biological or chemical weapons is to be set up near Halkida, about 70km (43 miles) north of Athens, by the end of the month, officials told Kathimerini yesterday. The laboratory, which cost around 1.6 million euros to develop and will cost around 110,000 euros to set up, belongs to the Hungarian army, which demonstrated its capabilities in Hungary on Thursday. Packable into two containers for transportation, the laboratory unfolds into a large tent, complete with security system and surveillance cameras. On-site scientists will have access to a full stock of chemicals as well as computers for cross-referencing data. «Terrorists could poison the drinking water in Athens, or the soil where the athletes will compete, or perhaps infect the air using aerosols,» Brig. Gen. Laszlo Tombol, who heads the Hungarian army’s NATO coordination unit, told The Associated Press after the lab demonstration. In the event of an attack, Belgian experts from the NATO unit would collect samples from the area believed to be infected and take to them to the lab in specially sealed containers where Hungarian scientists would run a series of tests. Hungarian Defense Ministry officials say lab experts can get preliminary results within 30 minutes and can usually identify a substance within an hour. If the substance is dangerous, the Greek authorities will be briefed immediately so that they can take the necessary action. Similarly, authorities will be informed in the event of a hoax aimed at disrupting the Games, officials said. The efforts of the Hungarian-led unit are to be boosted by 100 anti-chemical warfare specialists from the Czech Republic.