Three lines of inquiry in chemical cloud probe

birling gap major incident - 50 casulaties with gas cloud
birling gap major incident - 50 casulaties with gas cloud

Three suspected causes of the weekend’s mystery chemical haze above Eastbourne are being investigated.

Authorities – including the Environment Agency, Sussex Police and Maritime and Coastguard Agency – are looking into where the so called toxic cloud on Sunday evening, which left hundreds of people with streaming eyes and sore throats, originated from.

People said there was a distinctive smell of chlorine in the air.

One theory, which officials admit 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 the most likely – is that it allegedly came from a chemical container ship passing along the coast on Sunday afternoon.

Coastguards and British authorities are trying to trace the vessel after an aircraft and several boats in the area reported seeing containers being flushed through and cleaned at sea.

A major incident was declared after the haze first hit Birling Gap at around 5pm on Sunday evening.

Emergency services including police, fire, lifeboat, coastguards and ambulance crews rushed to the scene and visitors to Birling Gap beach were evacuated.

The area was cordoned off and residents living in the area were told to stay inside with their windows and doors closed.

Within the hour the haze had spread along the coast to Eastbourne and onto Bexhill with people taking to social media to warn others and complain of stinging eyes and breathing difficulties.

Ambulance officials advised members of the public feeling unwell to wash their eyes with copious amounts of water and that if they had any serious concerns then you should seek medical advice.

People were urged not to go to hospital unless in an absolute emergency.