A STRANGE pong along the south coast came all the way from France.
Unpleasant odours came from a chemical plant in Rouen, Normandy, and wafted over the English Channel, with some people reporting the smell to West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
HAMPSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service said its control room has received a ‘steady stream’ of calls from people reporting a strong smell of gas in the air.
It confirmed more than 20 calls were received from the Portsmouth area but there have been reports as far north in the county as Basingstoke and Andover, and as far west as Ringwood.
It says the smell emanates from a chemical being released called mercaptan – an organic compound added to natural gas, lubricants and paints.
The smell is caused by the sulphur in the gas.
Group manager Tony Deacon said: ‘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.
The Health Protection Agency says: ‘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.’
Reports have reached The News that the pong has been smelt in Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham, Havant and Waterlooville.
Fears of a gas leak caused staff at Riders Infant School in Kingsclere Avenue, Havant, to evacuate pupils this afternoon.
Sandi Chandler, deputy senior special needs coordinator at the school, said: ‘We put in a critical incident because we had a strong smell of gas outside the school.
‘Part of school procedure to follow critical incident procedures. Only later on we realised it was the smell coming from France. The safety of pupils and staff was our priority.
Everything went perfectly well for us.’
Pat Huxtable, of Nettlestone Road, Eastney, said she was visiting friends when she noticed the smell.
She told The News: ‘I immediately thought it was gas and went back up to the people I was visiting to inform them there must be a gas leak in the block of flats.
‘I went outside the building and I could smell it. I cycled up Clarendon Road and could still smell it.
‘I asked someone if they could smell something and they said yes, they could smell gas.
‘It’s a very noticeable smell and I am aware of it in the house.
‘I did think it was a gas leak straight away.’
Portsmouth City Council said it had received ten queries from the public concerned about the smell.
The National Grid said the National Gas Emergency Number had received 60,000 calls by 10am this morning.
The University of Portsmouth said it is in contact with the emergency planning team at Portsmouth City Council and told concerned staff and students to close windows and doors.
The National Grid urges people to call the National Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111999 only if you smell gas in your home.