Toxic cloud that caused vomiting at Worthing beach could be gas leak from sunken warship


A TOXIC cloud which left up to a dozen people vomiting on a beach may have been poison gas leaking from a sunken warship.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is investigating a mystery harmful haze that swept into Worthing, West Sussex, on Sunday.


The plume left dozens of people vomiting at a beach in Worthing, West Sussex[/caption]

Two people were taken to hospital and hundreds evacuated in the drama – with a two-mile cordon closing down the seaside town’s famous promenade.

Locals were warned to keep their windows and doors firmly shut while witnesses described people “heaving and retching” after being exposed to the sea air.

It is now thought the plume could have come from one of dozens of cargo vessels and munitions ships containing weapons and poisonous gas that were sunk in the English Channel during World War One and Two.

Chemicals were also sealed in concrete containers and dumped in the sea by both sides at the end of the conflicts.

Decades after the wars, it is feared the “rusting timebombs” are now rupturing in stormy seas – causing deadly gases to bubble up to the surface and then drift along the sea surface and onto the coast.

Records show ships including the US William L Marcy, which sailed back and forth between New York, the UK and Europe during World War Two, dumped barrels of chemicals in the English Channel in 1944.

Eddie Mitchell

Locals were warned to keep their windows and doors firmly shut to avoid being exposed to the contaminated air[/caption]

One dump site is located around 15 miles off the coast of Caen, France.

Terrance Long, chair of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM), estimates around one million metric tons of chemical weapons lie on ocean floors across the globe.

For example there have been 230 sulfur mustard gas exposure cases in Italy’s Bari harbour since 1946 alone.


Mr Long described the chemical leaks as a “global problem – not regional or isolated.”

In a similar incident to Sunday’s in Worthing, up to 50 people suffered stinging eyes, sore throats and vomiting at Birling Gap in 2017 – just 20 miles down the coast.

The toxic haze came after a stormy period of high winds and choppy seas, which could have caused containers on the sea bed to rupture.

A report into the toxic haze at Birling Gap, by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “Given the meteorological evidence and in the absence of a natural cause, it seems most likely that the source of the gas cloud was a ship, lost cargo, or possibly a wreck.”

And in May deadly mustard gas leaked from a First World War underwater “weapons cemetery” in the North Sea, close to the Belgian coast.

Traces of the gas – which killed thousands of soldiers in the conflict – have been found in at least two locations in the North Sea close the Flanders coast in Belgium.

A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “At this time we do not know the source and the MCA is investigating if it could have been from a vessel.

“The MCA is also looking at weather patterns and vessel movements to establish if there were any vessels in the area that were capable of carrying a gas or could have cargo tanks carrying solid or liquid cargo which could have been venting at the time.”


A two-mile cordon closed off the town’s famous promenade[/caption]


The beach was emptied as hundreds were forced to evacuate the area[/caption]


One expert believes the incident is part of a ‘global problem’[/caption]

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