Eastbourne fisherman has interesting theory about chemical haze

The haze at Birling Gap. Photo by Eddie Mitchell
The haze at Birling Gap. Photo by Eddie Mitchell

An Eastbourne fisherman who says he experienced the chemical haze cloud which passed over the coast at the weekend has a theory about where it came from.

Peter Storey was in his vessel The Royal Sovereign in the Dover Strait when he said he and his crew saw and smelt the gas pass over before midday on Sunday (August 27).

He said, “I had exactly the same experience as what was reported, there was destructive smell to the air.

“It went away quite quickly, in 15 minutes. Later on in the day it arrived in Eastbourne.”

Mr Storey said he suffered some of the mild effects from coming into contact with the gas, such as sore eyes and throat.

The fisherman of 50 years, who has been fishing around Sovereign Harbour since it opened said, “It’s quite common for people at sea to have that experience when there is an easterly wind.

“We always said it came from a chemical refinery in Rotterdam.”

He has reported his theory to the coastguard and police.

A spokesperon for Maritime and Coastguard Agency said, “We have been informed of many theories – however none of these have concluded in a confirmed source.

“Investigations are still continuing. Some of these investigations may take several days to conclude. We have no further information at this stage.”

The coastguard together with the Environment Agency and Sussex Police are investigating the causes of the chemical gas cloud which descended on Birling Gap and spread along the coast to as far as Bexhill at around 5pm on Sunday.

A major incident was declared after it left hundreds of people with streaming eyes and sore throats.

One theory, which officials say is unlikely, is that it could have come over from a chemical plant in northern France.

Another is that it may have been a combination of general gases and pollution in the atmosphere.

But the third – and believed to be the most likely – is that it allegedly came from a chemical container ship passing along the coast on Sunday afternoon.

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.