A stretch of coastline was evacuated after a chemical ‘haze’ left dozens of holidaymakers with streaming eyes, sore throats and vomiting.
Emergency services warned people along the East Sussex coast to keep doors and windows closed after people were affected along the shoreline from Eastbourne to Birling Gap, near Beachy Head although this advice was later withdrawn when the cloud dissipated.
Coastguard rescue teams from Birling Gap, Eastbourne, Bexhill and Newhaven raced to help clear the busy beaches as visitors feared they had been struck by a chlorine leak.
A statement from Sussex Police reads:
... advice to keep windows and doors closed has now been withdrawn.
Around 150 people attended Eastbourne District General Hospital and small numbers continued to attend into the early hours, but no further reports of the gas were received after mid-evening.
Neither the gas nor its source have been established, but agencies are continuing to investigate and have not ruled out either on-shore or off-shore locations, although it does appear that it did sweep in from the sea driven by on-shore breezes. However, weather models suggest that an onshore source in northern France is very unlikely.
While reports of those seeking medical treatment have now dwindled away, anyone still suffering the effects are advised by Public Health England to irrigate their eyes if they are irritated and to wash any other irritated areas with plenty of soap and water.
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.
A spokesman for Eastbourne District General Hospital told the BBC that 133 people had received treatment on Sunday, reports the Press Association.
Kyle Crickmore, who had been enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend sunshine at the beach at Birling Gap with his family, tweeted: “Some sort of chemical incident at Birling Gap, eyes are streaming and there’s a strong smell of chlorine in the air”.
He had finished swimming when his eyes started stinging. He looked around and saw everyone on the beach also rubbing their eyes and coughing in what he described as “all sorts of strange behaviour”.
UK Coastguard commander Steve Carson said: “This seems to have been caused by an unknown haze coming in from the sea, but the source has not yet been established. People living along the coast in the area have been advised by emergency services to keep doors and windows shut and to move away from the Birling Gap area in particular.”
Eastbourne councillor Kathy Ballard described it as “a matter of definite concern,” adding: “We need to find out the cause, where did this come from and to make sure that steps are taken so that it does not happen again. I have not heard of it happening before in this area.”