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Police investigate smelly gas leak

Criminal and administrative investigations aim to get to the bottom of discharges of gas still affecting a wide area

A CRIMINAL investigation is under way in relation to the leak of smelly gas from a Rouen plant that has caused alarm all the way to Paris – and even some parts of the southern UK.

The problems started at chemical firm Lubrizol, which admitted to “instability” having developed in one of its products. The gas being given off is ethyl mercaptan, commonly added to odourless natural gas to make it detectable.

Though the authorities insist the gas is not a health hazard, it can be dangerous if inhaled in strong concentrations.

An investigation on suspicion of “putting people’s lives in danger” has been launched by the gendarmerie. It will be checking to see if a crime may have occurred.

This morning Ecology Minister Delphine Batho said on Europe 1 radio that “there was doubtless some negligence or fault” involved; an administrative enquiry will also be held, she said.

Lubrizol is trying to stabilise the chemical but the minister said less than a tonne of material had been treated out of 36, so the incident would take “a certain time” to resolve. However she added it was under control and measures had been taken to make sure people were not affected by toxic concentrations of gas.

She reaffirmed that there was no “danger”, though she said there had been a small number of reports of “light” effects, like “discomfort, headaches and vomiting”.

People affected can call the prefecture for more information on 02 32 76 55 66.

Previous story: Smelly gas from Rouen to Paris

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