Coastguard rescue teams and emergency response units including a full decontamination unit were deployed to the East Sussex coast Sunday evening after a “haze” in the air caused injuries.
Around 150 sought treatment at Eastbourne General District Hospital Sunday evening after the event, which has been described as a chemical leak. Holiday makers were enjoying the unusually warm Bank Holiday Sunday at the Birling Gap beach when a “haze” rolled in off the sea, causing stinging eyes, coughing, and even vomiting in some instances, reports ITV News.
Eye witnesses said the day went from brilliantly sunny to foggy in just a matter of moments as the cloud came in off the sea, and the “stupidly busy” beach cleared within 10 minutes. Coastguard boats and other assets were deployed to make sure no one was stranded on the high cliffs surrounding the beach.
Local residents were urged to keep their windows closed and not to go outside as the area was evacuated. The fire brigade treated the event as a “chemical incident”.
Whilst the origin of the chemical haze has not yet been identified, a leak from a passing chemical tanker ship in the English Channel or a venting chemical plant in northern France have been suggested as possible sources.
Sussex Police said in a statement: “Long queues built up at Eastbourne General District Hospital well into the evening, with approximately 150 people being treated. 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.”
While a large number were treated and perhaps “hundreds” more may have been affected, nobody was seriously injured and admitted to the hospital.