Nearly twenty schools across Victoria were evacuated or placed in an emergency lockdown following another wave of suspicious phone calls this morning. The exact content of the calls have not been made available to the public, however police confirm that the calls threatened shootings and bombings. Deputy Premier James Merlino said the affected schools had immediately implemented their emergency management plans today and informed parents of the calls. He added that barring any further threats, most schools should be open as normal tomorrow, and that the “cowards” behind this “criminal behaviour” would “feel the full force of the law”.
This scare comes just days after hundreds of students were evacuated from schools and kindergartens across Victoria and New South Wales following a “chilling” bomb hoax on Friday.
Victoria Police chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said that the automated voice messages needed to be taken seriously, in case they were not hoaxes. Ashton said the calls were not being treated as being linked to terrorism but had potential international links. One automated call today had an American accent. He said that the Victorian Police was working with its interstate counterparts and Australian Federal Police to investigate the hoax calls.
During Friday’s hoax calls, a man warned a Melbourne school receptionist that she “didn’t have much time” in a phone call while another received a computerised message of a bomb in a backpack. Several NSW schools received an automated call that warned of a “bloodbath in forty minutes” and resulted in seven schools evacuated. Schools in the ACT also appear to have been affected.
State and Federal police are now probing whether the threatening calls are linked to a string of similar calls that vacated 20 schools throughout France and the UK this week, and a collection of schools on the Pacific island of Guam, Tokyo and Hawaii.
A statement from Victoria Police suggests that today’s calls are also hoaxes.