September 12, 2008

Poison Leak Fears at Halls

STUDENTS were evacuated after a toxic and explosive chemical leaked in the building.

Firefighters in protective clothing and masks to enter the halls of residence at Lovaine Halls, off Northumberland Road, in Newcastle, after a container containing chlorine dioxide burst in the building's plant room.

A 30-metre exclusion zone was placed around the building last night.

And firefighters worked until after 1am to mop-up the chemical amid fears there could be an explosion.

The building, which houses students from Northumbria University, is now being ventilated. But students staying on all floors, apart from the ground floor, have been allowed to return.

Around 30 were inside at the time, and Scott Edwards, crew manager at Colby Court, said: "We had to put full chemical procedures in pace, which meant putting firefighters in breathing apparatus and personal protective clothing and we cordoned off the area."

Thirteen firefighters were involved and had to mop up the chemical, and a search of the building was carried out to make sure there was nobody inside.

They also had to cut away parts of the carpet that the chemical had seeped into.

A security guard affected by the chemical complained of sore eyes but was not seriously injured.

Mr Edwards continued: "It had seeped into the carpet so it had to be cut away and put in sealed containers.

It was quite risky for the firefighters. Chlorine dioxide is a irritant, it's corrosive, explosive, oxidising and toxic."

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