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Giant gas cloud sparks a flurry of 999 calls in Dorset
A GIANT gas cloud from France that drifted across Dorset sparked a flurry of 999 calls to emergency services.
Residents were told not to panic because the foul smelling cloud, which crossed the Channel on strong winds, did not present a health risk.
Dorset’s Local Resilience Forum Warning and Informing Group said the stench was thought to be caused by the accidental discharge of gas stenching agent Mercaptan from the Lubrizol chemical factory near Rouen in north-western France.
People complained of nausea and headaches as a result of the stench.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said there was no danger to people’s health.
The resilience forum issued a statement saying that all gas smell related calls would be assessed in case they were not linked.
The statement said the smell was the strongest across the coastal towns of Dorset and other southern counties.
Some residents said they thought their houses had a major gas leak.
Echo reader Becca Overton said: “I rang British Gas, unaware of the leak in France. They told me about it but are still going to send someone out to check.”
Another reader, Victoria Stocqueler, said the gas smell was ‘nasty’.
The Health Protection Agency said: “The smell drifting over Southern England today poses no risk to public health.
“The odour is similar to rotten eggs.”
The gas leaked on Monday from a plant run by a French subsidiary of the US chemicals manufacturer Lubrizol near Rouen, 75 miles north-west of Paris.
Winds blew the cloud over northern France on Monday night and into England yesterday.
The cloud drifted across Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire yesterday morning and then made its way to Dorset.
French officials said the concentration of the gas leaked from the Lubrizol factory was ‘very low’.
A statement issued by the Seine-Maritime prefecture said: “The gas has an unpleasant smell but is not toxic.”
The odour is caused by a smelly chemical that is added to odourless natural gas to give it its characteristic smell. Staff at the chemical factory were still working last night to stop the leak.
A spokesman for the National Gas Emergency phone line said more than 100,000 calls were made about the smell by 2pm yesterday.
Nationally, between 8,000 and 10,000 calls were made to the National Gas Emergency phone line yesterday.