Sweat, garlic and rotten eggs: foul smell arrives from France

Jan 22, 2013

Gas leak in Rouen causes a stink on both sides of the English Channel

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AS IF the snow and freezing temperatures were not enough, parts of southern England are today sitting below a cloud of foul-smelling gas that has drifted across the Channel after a leak at a gas plant in France.

The smell of rotten eggs now hangs over most of northern France and parts of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and has even reached London. The non-toxic gas, called Mercaptan, escaped after an accident at a factory in Rouen, 60 miles north west of Paris, yesterday.

"Mercaptan, also known as methanethiol, is a natural substance produced by many plants and animals, including humans, and released by decaying matter. It is used in the plastics industry and in pesticides and is also the substance used to give an odour to natural gas and propane to make it easier to detect gas leaks," explained The Times.

The leak has already caused chaos in France. Emergency services in Paris were inundated with calls, reported Reuters, and police were forced to issue a statement saying that the gas did not pose a health risk while acknowledging that it smelled like a mixture of "sweat, garlic and rotten eggs".

Despite the assurances that it was not harmful some people in Rouen reported suffering migraines, irritation and nausea, and a football match between Rouen and Olympique Marseille was postponed because of the disgusting smell.

The gas arrived in England on Tuesday morning, prompting scores of calls to the fire brigade, and in some places the fire service took to Twitter to let people know that the smell was not a leak.

"The smell is just like the worst flatulent person ever standing with their back turned to you," Dover resident James Boyes told the Daily Mail. "It is truly, truly awful."

A school employee in Hove, Sussex, told the Times that the smell was "about 20 times worse" than his son's trainers.

The factory in Rouen is owned by Lubrizol, a subsidiary of investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The company said on Tuesday it was still battling to plug the leak.

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