Around 150 people sought medical treatment and hundreds more are believed to have been affected by an unknown gas cloud that hit the East Sussex coast on Sunday (August 27).
The first reports of a ‘haze’ coming in from the sea were received from Birling Gap, between Eastbourne and Seaford, just before 5pm. People reported irritation of their eyes and throats as the plume of gas moved eastwards along the coast as far as Bexhill, said police. It appears that the last reports were received some three hours after the first, but long queues built up at Eastbourne General District Hospital well into the evening, with approximately 150 people being treated, say police.
However, the effects were mostly minor and it was not necessary to admit anyone for further treatment.
Sussex Police said initially, patients were dealt with as a precaution with a full decontamination treatment, but it became clear that this was not necessary following clinical advice.
Anyone suffering the effects are advised by Public Health England to irrigate their eyes if they are irritated and to wash all over with plenty of soap and water, which will be sufficient to decontaminate their bodies.
A Sussex Police spokesperson said, “If you were affected and after taking the precautions recommended you still feel ill, contact 111 for advice and only visit your local A&E if you are still suffering significant effects.”
People living along the coast were advised to remain indoors with windows and doors shut. However, the vast majority of the gas appears to have dissipated by later that night.
The nature of the gas hasn’t been established, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has advised that it is ‘extremely unlikely’ that it was chlorine.
The effects, while uncomfortable, were not serious and an investigation is now under way by a number of agencies working in partnership to establish the source of the gas – said a Sussex Police spokesperson.
It is believed that it came in from the sea, but this has not been confirmed and work continues to locate the cause.
The spokesperson added, “With another fine day expected for Bank Holiday Monday, thousands of people are expected to flock to the coast once again. The situation will continue to be monitored, but it is believed that this was an isolated incident and is not expected to recur.”