Phosphorous grenade injures 13 in UK

 

A grenade left over from the second World War left 13 people needing hospital treatment in England.

The casualties were exposed to toxic fumes after workmen disturbed the stockpile of phosphorous grenades left in the sealed-up cellar of a property in Bamber Bridge near Preston, Lancashire.

It is thought one of the grenades, issued to members of the Home Guard during the war, was dislodged and cracked, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said. The devices, glass bottles about eight inches long, were intended to release a highly flammable mixture of phosphorus and benzene after being thrown, self-igniting on exposure to air.

They were to be used by reservists against Nazi occupiers if Britain had fallen to German invasion, but had lain forgotten for almost 70 years in the sealed-off cellar of a former fire station, now used as a printing firm premises. A further six such devices were found in cellar space which had been bricked up for some years.

Firefighters were first called to reports of a fire at the premises of Sprint Print on Station Road in Bamber Bridge at 12.23pm yesterday. On arrival they established the  smoke was in fact chemical fumes from what was thought to be a small container or bottle of acid in the cellar.

Two drainage company employees investigating a report from the occupier of damp masonry are thought to have inadvertently dislodged one of the bottles in the stockpile, causing it to leak. They were exposed to the fumes and were injured along with three workers at Sprint Print. Of these five casualties, two suffered chemical burns and three experienced breathing problems.

Two paramedics and six hospital staff at the Royal Preston Hospital - where the casualties had been taken - subsequently also complained of breathing difficulties.  All 13 casualties responded well to treatment and have been allowed home.

The cracked grenade was made safe and removed for disposal by an army disposal team and the rest of the stockpile will be disposed of in a controlled explosion, the fire service said. 

PA

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