Birling Gap haze: Eastbourne MP criticises '˜year-long' wait for specialised equipment

Stephen Lloyd MP has criticised the Government for what he says is its '˜year-long reluctance' to provide equipment which could have identified the Birling Gap toxic haze.

Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 4:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 3:03 pm
A major incident was declared at Eastbourne DGH after more than 150 people rushed to hospital

It was announced today (January 9) the fire service has been granted funding for specialised equipment following the major incident in August 2017.

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Birling Gap toxic haze: New equipment could identify gas

The Eastbourne and Willingdon MP said the process to make sure emergency services are better prepared for any future outbreaks had been ‘like pulling teeth’ and says the equipment – currently in a ‘central Sussex location’ – must be available in coastal locations immediately.

Staff at Eastbourne DGH responding to the major incident

He said, “This has been a very long, drawn out process and there have been times where it’s been a bit like pulling teeth.

“Soon after the incident it became clear to me that none of the emergency services had the appropriate equipment to collect, store and identify the gas.”

He continued, “We remain none the wiser about what occurred at Birling Gap in August 2017, because the emergency services were left hamstrung without the necessary equipment to store or assess the gas’ chemical make-up.

“Thankfully, on this occasion, nobody was left with long-lasting injury. If this were to happen again and the worst were to happen, a fatality, without this new piece of equipment we would still have no idea what the gas was.

An infographic by Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd's team shows how long a 'centrally located' device would take to get to certain parts of Sussex

“This would be appalling, an enormous government scandal and, frankly, totally unacceptable.

“Which is why I’ve not let the government off the hook over their year-long reluctance to supply the correct equipment.”

However, Mr Lloyd called today’s news a ‘major development for the security of our town and its residents’.

He added, “I am, though, disappointed that the equipment will be stored at one ‘central Sussex location’. If this event has taught us anything, it’s that it is imperative the equipment be available in coastal locations immediately.

“Not least, as happened last time, within an hour the gas had dissipated.

“I will therefore press the Minister to supply the equipment to each coastal fire station, so they’ll be able to access and contain the gas quickly, as soon as they attend the emergency site.”

The beauty spot was paralysed by a strange chemical mist in August 2017, which caused vomiting, streaming eyes, and people to have difficulty breathing.

Staff at Eastbourne DGH set up a tent and wore hazmat suits to deal with the unprecedented chemical incident as around 150 people needed emergency care.

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