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Guests evacuated after hotel chemical leak

PUBLISHED: 11:57 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:42 07 September 2010

TWO people were rushed to hospital after a chemical leak at a Paddington hotel on Sunday. Guests were evacuated from the Best Western Shaftesbury Paddington Court hotel on Devonshire Terrace after ammonia was reported leaking from a refrig

Georgia Graham

TWO people were rushed to hospital after a chemical leak at a Paddington hotel on Sunday.

Guests were evacuated from the Best Western Shaftesbury Paddington Court hotel on Devonshire Terrace after ammonia was reported leaking from a refrigerator in a first floor hotel room.

Firefighters wearing gas-tight suits and gas masks entered the evacuated first floor of the hotel and removed the fridge at 2.30am.

They took the appliance outside, because the danger from ammonia is significantly reduced in the open air.

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson, said they were called at 3.20am and treated two people who were taken to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington.

A spokesman from Best Western said: "Two floors of the hotel were evacuated as a precaution.

"These guests were allowed back in the hotel shortly afterwards. Two guests were taken to a local hospital as a precaution and were discharged the following morning.

"A health officer from Westminster Council attended the hotel this morning and was happy with his findings stating that all correct procedures had been applied.

"The fridge in question is only one year old and all mini bar fridges have been removed as a precaution until further notice."

One couple who were leaving the hotel after a weekend stay at the hotel were shocked that they had not been evacuated or even informed of the incident.

Rick Morris, 39, from Melksham, Wiltshire, said: "We've just checked out and we weren't told anything about it. We only got back at 1am, which means we were up and about quite late and they saw us come in. You would think they could have told us just in case."

His wife Sharon Morris, 44, also from Melksham, added: "I absolutely should have been told. It's really scary. If people are ill and in hospital and they are removing fridges from people's rooms it's obviously quite serious.

"We had a fridge in our room and no one bothered to check that or anything, and this is supposed to be one of the better hotels around here."

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "We were called at 02.31 on Sunday morning and the end of the incident came in at 04.12. A domestic fridge with a confirmed ammonia leak was removed from a room on the first floor to an outside area.

"The room was ventilated and 30 people from the first and second floor rooms were evacuated."

Ammonia poisoning is not thought to be life-threatening but exposure to high concentrations can cause severe burns on skin, eyes, throat, and lungs.

In extreme cases, blindness, lung damage or death can occur, but breathing lower concentrations only causes coughing and nose and throat irritation.

Although ammonia is still in use in large industrial processes such as bulk ice-making and industrial food processing, it is now rarely found in modern domestic fridges.


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