Ship Caused Birling Gap Chemical Haze

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The chemical haze that reportedly hit the south coast last summer was most likely a ship, a wreck or lost cargo in the Channel.

What happened?

On 27 August 2017 due to the chemical haze, more than 150 people needed hospital treatment after gas engulfed Birling Gap beach in Sussex.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said no gas samples were taken since there was no equipment available. He called for monitoring and equipment, in case a similar event happens again.

Measures to be placed

Mr Lloyd said, “If one person had died – for example, an asthmatic or an elderly person – and there was no equipment to store the gas, it would have been an absolute scandal. I am chasing the minister to demand funding for appropriate monitoring and equipment”.

Beach shut down

During the incident, the people from the beach were evacuated and South East Coast Ambulance declared a major incident.

People reported burning eyes, sore throats, skin irritation and vomiting gave conflicting reports with some saying the smell was odourless, like burning plastic, and others described it like chlorine and ammonia.

While air quality monitoring stations recorded peaks in ozone and sulphur dioxide, which may have come from shipping lane exhaust fumes, the report said gas detectors identified flammable gas and ammonia, but the levels didn’t raise a concern. 

Investigation inconclusive

A spokeswoman said, “Despite a comprehensive investigation it has not been possible to identify a specific source of the gas cloud. Given the meteorological evidence, the most likely source was a passing ship, lost cargo or a wreck in the English Channel”.

The report confirmed a sample was not taken for later analysis because appropriate equipment was not available at the site, and the gas dispersed quickly. The report said there were about 180 ships in that part of the Channel that day.

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Source: BBC

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