Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Shoppers hurt in refrigerator gas leak in Hampshire

More than 60 people were examined by paramedics after breathing in gas from a leaking refrigerator at a food store.

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Media captionMark Roberts from South Central Ambulance said people have been sent home

Hundreds of customers and staff were evacuated from the Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer stores at Hedge End, near Southampton, at about 17:00 BST.

The fire service said 62 people had been checked over at the retail park and one person was taken to hospital.

A spokesman said the gas was "non toxic" and they were "quite happy that there's no risk to the public".

The gas has been identified as a coolant from one of the refrigerator units inside Sainsbury's.

'Frog in throat'

Richard Hillier, who was in the store at the time, told the BBC: "I was walking past one of the aisles and noticed a few people coughing.

"As I walked past them I began coughing and haven't stopped.

"Basically, it feels like a frog in the throat that can't be cleared. Just a strange experience, I'll consult the local GP tomorrow if symptoms remain."

Most people were treated by paramedics at the scene and discharged, but one person was taken to hospital "as a precaution".

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Media captionThe BBC's James Ingham said most of the casualties from the shopping centre were being treated at the scene in Hedge End

"We're at a point now we're quite happy that there's no risk to the public and there's no health warning," the fire spokesman said.

"We're in the process of handing it back to the owners of the premises.

"We'd ask the public to stay away from this area for the time being while we're finalising the incident."

The Marks and Spencer store was also evacuated as it shares a heating duct with the food shop.

A spokeswoman for the chain said a total of 100 staff had been evacuated from the store, of which 40 had been treated as a precaution.

Stores closed

She said: "We were advised by police to evacuate our Hedge End store following the detection of a gas leak in an adjacent store.

"The store remains closed and we are supporting the emergency services.

"It is understood the leak has now been dealt with and emergency services were beginning to leave the scene."

After the alarm was raised, firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the Sainsbury's store to examine it and the area around the shops was cordoned off.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "Our Hedge End store was evacuated earlier this evening. The store will remain closed tonight.

"However following air quality checks the emergency services have confirmed the site is safe."

The Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and Southampton General Hospital earlier said they were preparing to receive patients if needed.

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