Sainsbury’s has told RAC that following investigations it ‘has ruled out refrigerant gas’ as the cause of an incident that saw its Hedge End store evacuated and 60 people examined for respiratory problems
The evacuation at Sainsbury’s Hedge End store near Southampton saw over 60 people examined by paramedics and one person taken to hospital after breathing in some sort of gas.
Media and fire brigade reports had up until this evening blamed the problem on a refrigerant leak, but because Hedge End is one of the retailer’s stores that runs on carbon dioxide, the accounts of respiratory difficulty were treated warily by many in the industry.
Hundreds of customers and staff were evacuated from both the Sainsbury’s and the adjacent Marks and Spencer store, which shares the same heating duct with the supermarket’s food shop, at around 5pm on Tuesday 17 September.
A shopper Richard Hillier, told reporters: “I was walking past one of the aisles and noticed a few people coughing. As I walked past them I began coughing and haven’t stopped. Basically, it feels like a frog in the throat that can’t be cleared”
Sainsbury’s said that investigations into what did cause the alert are ongoing, but that it was satisfied that it was not the refrigerant. It has alerted the fire brigade, which had been telling reporters that it had been identified as a ‘non-toxic refrigerant leak’.
A spokeswoman for Marks and Spencer said a total of 100 staff had been evacuated from the store, of which 40 had been treated as a precaution.”
After the alarm was raised, firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the Sainsbury’s store to examine it and the area around the shops was cordoned off.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said the Hedge End store was closed overnight
“However following air quality checks the emergency services confirmed the site was safe.”