Mysterious ‘chemical haze’ envelops UK coast


The gas was first reported at Birling Gap near Eastbourne, United Kingdom, pictured here on ...
The gas was first reported at Birling Gap near Eastbourne, United Kingdom, pictured here on March 19, 2014.

Around 150 people have been treated at hospital after being caught in a mysterious “chemical haze” that blanketed the UK’s East Sussex coastline Sunday afternoon.

Residents exposed to the cloud reported eye and throat irritations, a spokesperson for the National Health Service told CNN.

There are no indications yet as to what caused the haze, but East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service have termed it a “chemical incident.”

Authorities said the problems began when the “unknown haze” covered the area after possibly coming in off the sea at about 5 p.m. local time.

Multiple UK publications were reporting the cloud was chlorine gas — a toxic chemical weapon that was used to devastating effect during the first World War — but authorities said this was “extremely unlikely.”

“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,” Sussex Police said in a statement.

Though some of the first patients to be seen were fully decontaminated, later arrivals were simply given basic treatment after clinical advice that decontamination wasn’t necessary, police said.

Emergency services remained in the area early Monday after evacuating people from the coast. Remaining residents were being warned to stay indoors with the windows and doors shut.

“If you feel any effects, such as stinging eyes, the South-East Coast Ambulance Service is advising to wash with copious amounts of water and that if you have any serious concerns then you should seek medical advice,” East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said in a statement.

All the patients who arrived for treatment have since been released from hospital.

“The effects were mostly minor and it was not necessary to admit anyone for further treatment,” Sussex Police said in a statement.

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