Twenty one people have been rescued after they were trapped in a factory in a ‘significant’ gas leak at Greene King in Bury St Edmunds.
Eight fire crews are at the scene of the incident at the brewery’s bottling plant, in Cullum Road, where a tank valve is thought to have broken off and leaked food grade carbon dioxide in gas form.
Twenty one people were trapped in the building with the gas cloud drifting towards them but it has now been stopped and contained.
Pat Dacey, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service group commander, said: “Carbon dioxide is a component of the air we breathe, but if you start to adjust that level the air becomes asphyxiant. You would not be able to breathe.
“If we didn’t stop the leak we would have had to declare a major incident and start a mass evacuation of the town.”
Mr Dacey said assistance had been requested from the military and a police helicopter in case the incident worsened.
We are investigating how this leak could have happenedGreene King spokesman
“We were lucky. It is a cold day and because of that the gas was moving slowly and was very visible to us. It was a white cloud so we could see it moving,” he said.
“It is essential that we followed the principles of working with the other emergency services – it is the only way we resolved it as quickly and as safely as we did.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: “Checks are currently being made to make sure that the valve has stopped leaking permanently.”
Police evacuated occupants of Tannery Drive, Rockingham Road and Sextons Meadows where it is understood as many as 100 homes were affected.
They are being advised it is safe to return home.
Michelle Peacock, 28, of Sextons Meadows, said: “It was quite a shock. It’s not every day you have a gas leak at the end of your road.
“I’d just pulled into the road in my car and nearly had a heart attack. It’s been an eventful day, it’s normally quite quiet around here.”
Tony Anslow, 70, of Sextons Meadows, added: “A police officer rang my bell and rapped on my door fiercely and told me to get out.
“She said there was a gas leak and I thought, I’d better get out.
“I have walked past the main plant and people said, Don’t go near it.”
A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Trust said a Hazardous Area Response Team and ambulance officer were in attendance.
No-one is thought to be injured or unwell at this time.
The Environment Agency has been informed.
A Greene King spokesman said following a leak in a CO2 tank at the brewery, the fire brigade attended to isolate the damaged pipe and escort local residents and their on-site team away from the area as a safety precaution.
He said: “Our engineers are now carrying out repair work on the affected pipe and we are investigating how this leak could have happened.
“The area is once again completely safe and local residents who were briefly evacuated have now returned to their homes.
“We would like to thank the police and fire services for their assistance and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.”