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Houses, hospital evacuated following chemical alert

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

267041 ADBy Dean Taylor

The dangers of mixing unknown chemicals was highlighted on Tuesday morning when part of Pokuru Road and Waikato Hospital’s Accident and Emergency ward had to be evacuated.

Waikato Hazardous Goods Officer Peter Lee was alerted to an incident when a Te Awamutu man was admitted to Waikato Hospital after he had come into contact with highly toxic chemical fumes.

He ascertained the toxicity was the result of mixing two unknown chemicals together on a Pokuru Road farm.

The ambulance staff had transported the chemical to the hospital with the patient, but the product was still unknown and as a precaution part of the A&E ward was evacuated.

Emergency services in Te Awamutu were alerted to the situation and descended upon Pokuru Road.

Houses nearby the farm property were evacuated and the road was closed as a precaution.

Two farm workers who had also been in the vicinity of the chemical mixture were decontaminated at the scene by the Te Awamutu Fire Brigade who rigged an emergency shower.

Mr Lee says emergency services handled the situation well as they are required to deal with such an emergency in terms of the worst possible scenario when a chemical is unknown. He says it appears the chemicals involved were cleaning agents for use on the dairy, but one had been sold door-to-door and he would need to make further enquiries because he was not familiar with the product.

He says while there is a school of thought that promotes taking containers to the medical professionals when a poisoning type incident occurs, his personal belief is that potentially toxic chemicals should not be carried by ambulances and taken to hospitals.

Mr Lee says enquiries into this incident and the manner in which it was handled will continue.

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