Emergency Services from across the region have been reporting receiving calls from the public today about a strange gassy smell in the air. The source was tracked down to an accidental discharge from a gasworks factory at Rouen in France.
Officials say the gas poses no risk to the public. ITV Meridian spoke to Martin Adams from the Kent Fire & Rescue Service, about how they first heard of the problem.
The control room of Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service has reported receiving more than twenty calls today about a strong smell of gas in the air.
In a statement they said: 'The unpleasant odour is understood to emanate from a leak in a factory in Rouen in northern France.
'The Health Protection Agency has stressed the gas is non-toxic and presents no threat to the public. The chemical released - mercaptan - is an organic compound added to natural gas, lubricants and paints. The smell is caused by the sulphur in the gas but it is completely harmless.'
The initial alert to the Hampshire control room came from their counterparts in West Sussex. The calls from the public came from as far apart as far north in Hampshire as Basingstoke and Andover, and as far west as Ringwood.
"Our control room has dealt with a number of calls reporting the unpleasant gas smell.
"We want to reassure the public that the gas presents no threat to health and is completely harmless.
"We would also like to remind the public that if they suspect they are dealing with a genuine gas emergency in their home or building, they should call the National Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111999."
– Group Manager Tony Deacon, Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service
Surrey Police say they received 15 calls about a smell of gas in the air this morning. Kent Police and Sussex Police also received calls about the problem. The source of the smell was later attributed to an accidental discharge from a factory in Rouen, more than 60 miles west of Paris.
Surrey Police said the smell is from an additive to the gas which has an unpleasant aroma, but is not toxic, and does not present any danger to the public.
The Health Protection Agency has released a statement about a gas cloud that has travelled across the channel from France. The gas and the resulting smell has been detected in areas across the South coast prompting calls to the emergency services.
"The smell drifting over Southern England today poses no risk to public health. The odour, which is similar to rotten eggs, has been noticed by people mainly in Kent, East and West Sussex and some parts of Surrey.
"It is caused by a particularly smelly chemical that is added to odourless natural gas to give that its characteristic smell.
" The chemical leaked from a factory in Rouen, France yesterday and has blown across the Channel overnight. It is not toxic and has also been diluted before entering the air over England, so people should be reassured it will cause no harm. It is an unpleasant odour which may cause some people to feel slightly nauseous but it will dispel naturally.
A foul-smelling cloud of gas which wafted over to parts of the South East from a chemical factory in France has prompted dozens of calls to emergency services. An accidental discharge of the gas mercaptan from a factory in the northern city of Rouen travelled across the English Channel this morning.
People in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and parts of Hampshire reported the unpleasant aroma but emergency services said the gas is harmless and presents no danger to the public. Sussex Police said they had received more than 25 calls by 9.15am. Kent Police reportedly had a large number of calls.
"We understand that this smell emanates from an accidental factory discharge in Rouen, more than 60 miles west of Paris," a Sussex Police spokesman said."The smell is from an additive to the gas which has an unpleasant aroma but isnot toxic and there is no danger to the public."
South Kent and Sussex residents are being asked to keep doors and windows closed due to a gas cloud that is believed to have come across from Rouen in France.
The warning follows reports of a gas leak from a factory 75 miles west of Paris. Kent Fire and Rescue Service says it is aware of the problem and liaising with its partner agencies to see what can be done.