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20 hospitalized after Australian airport chemical leak
Updated: 2005-02-21 09:09

Some 20 people were hospitalised and hundreds evacuated from a terminal at Melbourne's airport after unidentified chemical fumes spread through the area, emergency officials said.

Ambulance services spokesman James Howe said 20 people had been taken to hospital suffering vomiting, nausea and breathing difficulties and more were being treated at the airport following the incident, which occurred around 7:30 am, a peak travel time.

He said the nature and source of the chemical fumes involved were not immediately known.

The terminal, which handles domestic flights by Virgin Blue, was evacuated, with hundreds of passengers and staff fleeing the building, he said.

"The Virgin Blue terminal has been evacuated, people are out on the car park and in the waiting area outside the terminal, it's quite an amazing scene here," Howe said on Sky News television.

He said firefighters and hazardous materials crews had been at the airport for more than an hour and had been unable to identify the source or nature of the chemical making people sick.

"We're taking it very seriously, because of the unknown element of it," he said.

Those taken ill were not in a life-threatening situation but were being taken to hospital for tests and observation "because of the unknown substance and we don't know what the long-term effects could be," he said.

Most of those affected by the chemical were security or airport staff working in the departures area of the terminal, he said.

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