RESIDENTS at a Southampton block of flats fear a dangerous chemical found in their water supply has been making them ill.

In the past few weeks, numerous occupants of the block in Cobbett Road, Bitterne, have been struck down with mystery illnesses, including blackouts, stomach cramps and dizziness.

Now they are furious after traces of Benzene, a carcinogen found in crude oil, were found in their drinking water despite reassurances from Southern Water that it was safe to drink.

They are now being supplied with bottled water until the problem has been resolved.

Six weeks ago, residents at the Raglan Housing Association development complained that their water tasted and smelt odd.

In response to the claims, Southern Water conducted tests but found nothing.

In a letter to one resident, a spokesman responded: "We are pleased to report that the results were normal and the water is of a high quality. We trust this has reassured you of the quality of the water."

However, after weeks of consuming the water, residents of the 21 flats were posted leaflets from the water firm warning them to steer clear of it.

Benzene A Southern Water official later informed them that benzene was present in the water.

Residents have been left wondering if the chemical is responsible for their illnesses.

Ground-floor resident Alan Baxter collapsed last week as he walked to his local newsagents.

The 55-year-old former bricklayer said: "I was walking across the road to the shops when my head started spinning. The next thing I knew I was on the ground. It felt like someone had spun me round hundreds of times.

"I have always been fit and healthy, and nothing like this has ever happened before."

Brian Auld, 40, was hospitalised for a week with stomach cramps - and doctors couldn't work out what was wrong with him.

He said: "I drink loads of water from the taps. One day a couple of weeks ago I started to feel funny. Then it got worse - I was bent double in pain and was rushed to hospital.

"The doctors there did all sorts of tests but couldn't work out what was wrong so they discharged me. The next day I was back there again in absolute agony - and I stayed for a week."

A spokesman for Raglan said that the housing association was carrying out a more detailed examination to assess the quality of the drinking water and would be contacting all residents to tell them of our findings.

He added that Raglan were concerned to hear that some residents have been ill, and said it would be investigating these reports as a matter of urgency.