People in southern counties of England including Kent and Sussex are reporting an over powering smell of gas and fuel oil in the air today. The source of the problem is coming from Northern France.
It appears to be an accidental gas leak at a factory in Rouen, France which is causing the awful smell to drift across the English Channel on the wind. The source of the gas is at a Lubrizol Corporation (www.lubrizol.com) plant in the Normandy region of Northern France and workers are trying to neutralise the stench. The company produces car engine lubricants.
The smell of gas has reached as far as 200 miles away from the site in France (70 miles from Paris). Residents have noticed the gas smell in Dover, Folkestone Hastings, Brighton, Tonbridge Wells, Maidstone, Ashford and numerous other towns throughout southern English counties according to Twitter.
The gas is not believed to be ignitable gas, but instead, an odouriser called Mercaptan, added to butane and natural gas to give it it’s signature sulphur smell so it is easily detectable.
Mercaptan contains sulphur chemical compounds which are unpleasant to smell, and often referred to as being similar to rotten eggs. The gas may cause headache and nausea but is usually harmless.
The National Grid gas emergency line (0800 111 999) is having problems answering calls as a result of the volume of people calling suspecting a gas leak. A normal day would see 7,500 calls and at 13:30 there were already over 75,000 calls to the Gas Emergency Service. National Grid have 250 staff working over the next 24 hour period to deal with callers concerns. Police in both France and England are also receiving large number of calls from worried citizens.
At this stage, there appears to be no danger to the public and the gas appears not to be toxic. Kent Fire and Rescue advised people stay indoors and close their windows as a precaution.