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POLICE

German police stumble upon huge stockpile of chemicals during routine call out

Authorities in North-Rhine Westphalia are trying to work out what the huge stash of chemicals discovered at a warehouse was intended for.

German police stumble upon huge stockpile of chemicals during routine call out
Police guard the facility in Preußisch Oldendorf. Photo: DPA

Police officers in the town of Preußisch Oldendorf, north of Bielefeld, stood guard outside the suspect warehouse on Monday, as investigators scratched their heads as to what the possible use of the dangerous substances could be.

A day earlier firefighters had discovered suspicious looking barrels during an operation at the address that had been triggered by a cable fire in the storage facility’s electric circuits.

Further inspection revealed that 35,000 litres of sulphuric acid, caustic soda and phosphoric acid were being illegally held in huge 1,000-litre barrels at the the 650-square metre unit. Some 50 propane bottles were also found at the site.

Experts trained in handling chemicals were set to arrive at the scene later on Monday to transport the chemicals to a secure location.

Two men were spotted fleeing the site in a large vehicle when firefighters arrived on Sunday. The warehouse’s owner has denied any connection to the crime, claiming that the legal tenant had sublet it to a third party without his knowledge.

Police have not yet given any further indication as to the suspected nature of the crime.

However, sulphuric acid and caustic soda are both used in the production of methamphetamines. The fact that the warehouse is located near the border to the Netherlands – a notorious hub in the production of chemical narcotics – is also likely to be more than just a coincidence.

SEE ALSO: Germany is Europe's drug capital, sewage system research reveals

Vocabulary

Warehouse – (die) Lagerhalle

Fire brigade – (die) Feuerwehr

Sulfuric acid – (die) Schwefelsäure

Property owner – (der) Eigentümer

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POLICE

German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.

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