US evacuates China staffers as illness mystery deepens
Jun 08 2018
The US has pulled more staff out of China after they showed mysterious symptoms similar to those first reported by diplomatic staff in Cuba, which gave rise to reports of "sonic attacks".
While the cause of the mysterious ailment, which already claimed at least one US official in Guangzhou back in April, is still under scrutiny, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month likened the symptoms displayed by the stricken worker to those experienced by US diplomats in Cuba.
Consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou were evacuated from China on Wednesday, after experiencing headaches, sleeplessness and nausea.
The upscale apartment complex in question is said to house USA government employees and other foreigners, as well as affluent Chinese dwellers.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday that its investigation into the first case has not yielded any clues as to the cause of the incident. "We will investigate the case and coordinate with the USA side in a consistently responsible way". Symptoms citizens were urged to look out for include dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints, hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.
People working in The Canton Place complex, a few kilometers (miles) from the consulate, said Thursday they were just hearing about the incidents, reflecting a lack of coverage in China's entirely state-controlled media.
Washington has said in the past that Cuban authorities must take responsibility for the safety of U.S. diplomats on their soil, but the Havana government denies any knowledge of an attack. Pompeo said then that the employee's symptoms were eerily similar to those reported by the Cuban embassy staff.
Mark Lenzi, a security-engineering officer at the consulate, left the consulate Wednesday evening with his wife and two children after experiencing odd sounds like marbles rolling around a metal funnel that he connected to neurological symptoms.
On Wednesday, the State Department said it was evacuating several more Americans from Guangzhou for further health screenings.
The State Department previously issued a travel alert for Americans in China, prompting Foreign Minister Wang Yi to warnWashington not to "politicize" the incidents.
She said the employee was sent to the United States for further evaluation, and on May 18, officials learned that the clinical findings of this evaluation were similar to "what might be seen in a patient with a head concussion or mild traumatic brain injury".
President Donald Trump has said he believed Cuba knew about the attacks and could have stopped them.
Last year, 24 United States diplomats and their family members in Cuba fell victim to mysterious "attacks" that left them with injuries resembling brain trauma.
It's also the only United States diplomatic installation in China authorized to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.
"It's very unusual. But I don't feel that there's something to be very afraid of because it's probably a very special case", Chen said.