When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Medics treat 62 people at Hedge End after gas leak at Sainsburys
7:23am Wednesday 18th September 2013 in News
HUNDREDS of shoppers and staff were forced to evacuate one of Hampshire’s biggest shopping centres after a chemical leak made people fall ill.
Shoppers at Hedge End Retail Park were instructed to leave their trolleys and file out into the car park after people began complaining of runny eyes and breathing problems.
Police cordoned off a 60-yard exclusion zone at the out-of-town retail park in Tollbar Way, Hedge End, which was packed with shoppers.
Officers also barred people from entering as fears grew over the nature of what was classed as a “major incident”.
With mystery surrounding the cause of the symptoms, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service deployed its hazardous material unit which is usually used to deal with industrial spills.
As people streamed out of Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer, ambulance crews sorted out those displaying symptoms.
A total of 62 people were wrapped in blue blankets before being told to queue up in front of a special decontamination tent where ambulance crews carried out tests.
Mystery leak After this they were treated at the scene in one of a dozen ambulances.
Wearing special breathing equipment and protective clothing, fire officers then entered the deserted store to pinpoint the source of the mystery leak.
Last night Mark Larrimore, station commander for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the alarm was raised shortly after 5pm last night and that leak had been sourced to a freezer containing frozen food inside the Sainsbury’s store.
He said: “The appliances within the store have a refrigerant chemical inside.
“It was what we suspect to be a small amount of leakage from one of the units.
“Both stores were full when we turned up with our officers and police officers went in and removed everyone with the help of staff.
“We moved everyone out of the main entrance which is away from the store and upwind.
“We also blocked off Marks and Spencer so people could not cross over.
“We have had officers going in with detection systems and they have picked up nothing in the atmosphere whatsoever.”
Only one person – an elderly woman – was taken to hospital as a precaution. All other casualties were treated at the scene and then allowed to go home.
The cordon was lifted at around 9pm and Sainsbury staff, who were told not to speak to the media gathered at the cordon, went back in and appeared to go back to work.
Mark Roberts, South Central Ambulance Service emergency service officer, said: “We are at a point now where we are quite happy there is no risks to the public and there are no health warnings and we are handing the premises back to the owners.”
‘Site is safe’ A Sainsbury's spokesman said last night: “Our Hedge End store was evacuated earlier this evening. The store will remain closed tonight.
“However following air quality checks the emergency services have confirmed the site is safe.''
The M&S spokeswoman said that a total of 100 staff had been evacuated from the store, of which 40 had been treated as a precaution.
She said: “We were advised by police to evacuate our Hedge End store following the detection of a gas leak in an adjacent store.
“The store remains closed and we are supporting the emergency services.”
Shopper Richard Hillier wrote on Twitter: “Hopefully the gas leak wasn’t serious, left Sainsbury’s Hedge End just as emergency services turned up. Haven’t stopped coughing since leaving.”
Comments are closed on this article.