The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly were forced to evacuate the U.N. building Tuesday because of a “suspicious” odor, Reuters reported.
Security officials first told the press that there was a gas leak in the Manhattan compound. But spokesman Farhan Haq said he could not confirm that was the case.
Haq said the evacuation was just a precautionary measure. “We are currently trying to identify the odor with local authorities,” he told reporters crowded outside the building.
The smell was later blamed on a sewage backup caused by high tides in the nearby East River.
“This is not a hazard, there were gases released by the sewage but it is not harmful,” Haq told reporters. “Public tours and General Assembly meetings should be able to resume by tomorrow.”
The U.N. compound is currently undergoing a $2 billion refurbishment. The Security Council has been meeting in the basement of the 39-story Secretariat building during renovations, and repairs have not begun for the adjoining General Assembly building, which is still being used.