Thursday, January 27, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Army says Dugway Proving Ground, where military weapons are tested, was locked down for hours because a small amount of a nerve agent was unaccounted for.

The military said in a statement Thursday the amount missing was less than one fourth of a teaspoon of VX nerve agent, which affects the body's ability to carry messages through the nerves.

The missing vial prompted a lockdown late Wednesday afternoon that lasted until the agent was found early Thursday.

The Army says no one was in danger and the lockdown was ordered as a precaution. Between 1,200 and 1,400 people were inside the facility at the time.

Dugway is about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Dugway Proving Grounds, where military weapons are tested, has reopened after it was locked down for hours to resolve a "serious concern," officials said.

Personnel were allowed to enter early Thursday and people inside were allowed to leave shortly after that, said Army post spokeswoman Paula Thomas.

Post commander Col. William E. King late Wednesday announced that gates were locked to both incoming and outgoing personnel, saying there was a serious concern but that no one was in danger.

Officials did not indicate what triggered the lock-down at about 5:24 p.m. MST Wednesday but said no one was injured and no damages were reported. About 1,200 to 1,400 people were inside Dugway at the time - military personnel, contractors and civilian workers.

"All of our employees are safe and there is no damages that I know of," Bonnie Robinson, a post spokeswoman, said Thursday morning.

In his statement Wednesday, King said: "We are working as quickly and as thoroughly as possible to resolve a serious concern within the Test Area. ... Measures like these (lock down of our gates) are not taken lightly. No one is in immediate danger but these steps are required."

Dugway is about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Military weapons are tested there but its primary mission is defending troops against biological and chemical attacks.

Encompassing more than 800,000 acres of Utah's west desert, the post also is used by the U.S. Army Reserves and the U.S. National Guard for maneuver training.

Robinson said post officials were planning a news conference at 1 p.m. MST Thursday at Dugway.


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