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Met Opera evacuates over sprinkled substance

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New York’s Metropolitan Opera was evacuated on Saturday after an audience member triggered a panic by sprinkling a powder that may have been a friend’s ashes, police said.

The Metropolitan Opera House is pictured at Lincoln Center in New York July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri / MANIL BULLETIN

The Metropolitan Opera House is pictured at Lincoln Center in New York July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri / MANIL BULLETIN

The leading US opera company was in the intermission of a matinee of “Guillaume Tell” when a person approached the orchestra pit and released an initially mysterious substance, the Met said.

Police said they had a “good description of an individual” responsible but had not made any arrests over the incident, in which no one was injured.

“We have spoken to more than one witness who said they spoke to an individual from out of town who indicated he was here to sprinkle ashes of a friend, his mentor in opera, during the performance,” said John Miller, the police deputy commissioner in charge of counterterrorism.

“So that is certainly an area that we are pursuing,” he told reporters.

A sample of the substance was sent to a laboratory for testing, he said.

The opera house asked patrons to evacuate after the incident and also cancelled an evening performance of “L’Italiana in Algeri” while authorities investigated.

An audience member, Dylan Hayden, posted pictures of emergency personnel on Twitter and said that seven police vehicles rushed to the scene with a stretcher briefly taken into the hall as a precaution.

New York’s prominent institutions are constantly on guard for potential threats in light of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the city and more recently a small bombing in the Chelsea neighborhood.

Lincoln Center systematically checks audience members for weapons or other dangerous items.

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