Southend Hospital diesel leak prompts evacuation

Southend Hospital
Image caption Southend Hospital said a leak of diesel in its maternity unit meant the hospital had been closed to patients and visitors

A hospital was closed and patients evacuated following a "large" diesel leak in its maternity unit.

Southend Hospital in Essex said the fire service was called after the leak on the third floor of its Cardigan Wing just before midday.

Hospital medical director Neil Rothnie said the leak was in a heating system fuel tank, and had been sealed off.

A number of wards were affected and patients were asked to go to hospital only if they had a serious emergency.

More updates on this story and others in Essex

"We did move patients from two wards to other areas of the hospital," said Mr Rothnie, who also revealed one maternity case was transferred to Basildon Hospital.

"The main problem was the odours and fumes, which were strong.

"We don't have any real idea about what the cause of the leak was - it's simply been sealed off and we're cleaning up."

Essex Fire and Rescue Service said two crews, a hazardous material team and two environmental units were sent to the hospital.

At 15:00 GMT, they said crews were leaving the incident "in the care of hospital staff".

Ambulances were being diverted to other hospitals in the region, but the East of England Ambulance Service said "patients with life-threatening conditions" would continue to be taken to Southend.

Aral Jamalfar, a core surgical trainee at the hospital, said he first became aware of the problem when the smell of fuel spread to the office he was working in.

"Within 15 minutes they told us to evacuate, which is when I left the building," he said.

"They managed to transport all the patients very quickly to evacuate the area, but I'm sure that would have had an impact on elective surgeries which they needed beds for.

"Potentially they might be transferred. Usually when there is a black alert, they consider sending people elsewhere or to another part of the hospital.

"As far as I know, no-one was injured. There was just the smell. They had to identify where the leak was and if there was a fire risk."

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