Patients evacuated after chemical alert

PATIENTS and staff were evacuated from a hospital yesterday after a chemical spill resulted in fumes, smoke and a noxious smell.Three patients – two women and a man – were treated by paramedics outside Southwold Hospital after staff alerted emergency services to a spillage of drain cleaner.

PATIENTS and staff were evacuated from a hospital yesterday after a chemical spill resulted in fumes, smoke and a noxious smell.

Three patients – two women and a man – were treated by paramedics outside Southwold Hospital after staff alerted emergency services to a spillage of drain cleaner.

It contained sulphuric acid, which was reacting with other unknown substances in a ground floor storage cupboard.

A fire officer was sent to the 100-year-old community hospital at 1pm and called for three fire crews, from Southwold and Lowestoft, a control vehicle from Beccles and a specialist operational support unit from Haverhill.


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Assistant divisional officer Richard Chandler said: “When we first arrived there were quite high fumes, a lot of smoke and a noxious smell.

“Because of the nature of the building and unknown substances involved, crews entered the building wearing gas tight suits and breathing apparatus to assess the situation, identified the substance and the scale of incident was made.

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“Subsequent crews again entered wearing gas tight suits in an effort to mop up and make the area safe.

“All persons were evacuated to a safe area with the help of hospital staff.”

The three patients treated, who had complained of headaches, were fine after being moved outside.

Police closed Field Stile Road around the hospital in front of St Edmund's Church and Cautley Road until the fire service declared the area safe shortly before 5pm.

A Suffolk fire service spokeswoman later said that the chemical was neutralised and contained within pump drums to be left in a secure site at the hospital. The hospital will then arrange for specialist disposal through contractors.

Waveney Primary Care Trust runs the hospital, which can care for up to 17 patients and employs around 15 staff.

A statement from the trust said: “At approximately 1pm this afternoon, a leaking container of cleaning liquid was found in a ground floor storage cupboard at Southwold Hospital.

“Following this discovery, staff at the hospital immediately implemented the Trust's health and safety policy, evacuated any patients and staff from the surrounding area and contacted a Suffolk Fire Brigade officer to seek advice.

“The fire officer then contacted Suffolk Fire Brigade's decontamination unit who dealt with the situation.  The hospital is now fully operational.

“Hospital staff would like to reassure members of the public that patients were never at risk from the leak and that all necessary steps were taken to minimise disruption to the hospital.  We do however apologise to patients and visitors for any inconvenience caused.”

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