UPDATE: Students suffer breathing difficulties after chemical leak at College of West Anglia in King’s Lynn

A Magpas Helimedix helicopter at the scene. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A Magpas Helimedix helicopter at the scene. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Thirty students needed treatment and one was taken to hospital after a chemical leak at the College of West Anglia today.

Police sealed off Tennyson Avenue, outside the campus. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Police sealed off Tennyson Avenue, outside the campus. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Emergency services were sent to the Tennyson Avenue campus just after 11am, after a number of people began coughing because of a suspected leak.

The incident occurred on the third floor of the Front Block, where 50 students were taken ill whilst waiting for a lecture. The building has now been declared safe after being vented by firefighters.

An investigation is now under way into the cause of the incident.

College principal David Pomfret said: 'I would like to thank our staff, students and the emergency services for their professionalism in managing today's incident.

Emergency services attend an incident at the College of West Anglia. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Emergency services attend an incident at the College of West Anglia. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

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'I am delighted that the situation has been resolved so quickly and we are now working closely with the police to establish the cause of the incident. '

In a statement the college added: 'This morning at approx. 11am a number of students and staff reported experiencing irritation from something in the air in the Front Block of the King's Lynn campus. A number of people were treated on site for breathing difficulties and one person was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, who was discharged following treatment. 'Although classes in the Front Block were cancelled for the afternoon, the rest of the campus has remained open with lessons continuing as normal.

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'At around 3pm the emergency services confirmed the building was safe to re-occupy. Medical services have advised that if anyone in the building at the time feels unwell, they should report to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.'

Station manager Grant Cotterell, from Norfolk fire service, said: 'We got a call around 11am about a suspected gas leak. When we got to the scene, the students had been evacuated and were on the grass area in front of the college.

'Incidents like these have the potential to be very serious. The kids were coughing and some had watery eyes.

'We went into the building and the gas has been dispersed and the kids are not allowed to go back into the building because were are allowing it to have proper ventilation.

'We are unsure as yet what the cause was. We're handing the investigation over to the police and the college.'

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) said: 'The trust dispatched a number of resources, including two response cars, an ambulance, an ambulance officer, our hazardous area response team (HART) and our air ambulance colleagues at Magpas.

'One patient has been taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital by land ambulance for further assessment and care, but is not thought to be in a life-threatening condition, at this stage it's not anticipated that any other patients will need further treatment at hospital.'

A spokesman for Magpas Helimedix, whose helicopter landed in the college grounds, said: 'It was a suspected chemical-related incident, 60 or 70 people were suffering respiratory challenges and symptoms. We were there to assist but ffortunately other than one person no-one suffered serious injuries as far as we know.'

Student Steven Sharp, 17, from Lynn, said: 'It was on the third floor of the front block. People were waiting for a business studies lesson when about 50 people started coughing and then the fire alarm went off. Some people with asthma were struggling to breathe and quite a few people were treated outside.'

Fellow student Connor Jackson, 17, from Lynn, said: 'I'm not sure what happened but there is loads of people saying there was a gas leak.

'I saw people struggling for breath and being treated outside. I've never seen so many emergency services in my life so whatever it is it obviously must be something serious.'

Matthew Peters, also 17 and from Lynn, said he was his way to the college to pick up his girlfriend when the drama unfolded.

'I saw loads of fire trucks going past and was wondering what all the confusion was about,' he said. 'I saw the road to the college had been blocked off and saw my girlfriend sitting on the wall being treated. I've spoken to her over the phone and I know she's all right.'

College of West Anglia spokesman Paul O'Shea said: 'Earlier today there were reports from students and staff about irritation and some were coughing. We evacuated the building and called emergency services.

'Police have blocked off the road and the fire services are investigating the cause.

'The building is closed off for students. Students with lessons in that building are to go home. The rest of the campus is open and teaching will continue.'

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