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British running club causes public panic after using white powdery substance to mark route

A British running club used cornstarch to mark its five-mile route, which set off fear of a chemical attack in the area. (Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

A running club set off panic over the weekend in the United Kingdom after it used a white powdery substance to marks its five-mile route, the Telegraph reported.

On Saturday morning, someone contacted authorities after they spotted a man and woman leaving piles of white powder along different points in Tuesday Market Place in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

Police feared the powder could be a nerve agent similar to the poison used in the attempted murder of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, earlier this year.

Officers blocked off the area and called Norfolk Fire Service hazardous material specialists to investigate the substance, which turned out to be cornstarch.

What happened?

After the powder was reported, Norfolk police started searching for the man and woman who allegedly made the piles, according to the report.

Members of the Norfolk Hash House Harriers running club came forward and informed officers that the substance was simply flour that was put out to mark the running trail.

Running club member David Armes, who put out the piles, described the police reaction as "completely over the top."

"It was a lot of fuss about nothing but for those people who didn't know what it was, it was understandable,” he told the Telegraph.

Armes apologized for the inconvenience the cornstarch caused, adding that he's glad that "the public was being vigilant and reporting it, saying there's something unusual here."

What role did social media play?

Another runner, Bob Green, pointed to the role that social media may have played in the incident.

"The biggest problem in this era of social media and after Salisbury is the general public is much more aware of substances in the streets," Green said. "As hashers, we maybe need to communicate better with the police to avoid them sending out expensive emergency services."

Green said he called the police as soon to tell them the powder was harmless as soon as he heard the area had been closed off.

"We have given words of advice to the running club to inform us in advance if they do anything like this in the future," a Norfolk police spokeswoman told the newspaper.

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