65 hospitalised for toxic fumes at French church: officials

27th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Sixty-five people were hospitalised Monday for carbon monoxide poisoning after breathing toxic fumes at a church concert near the northern French city of Lille.

PHALEMPIN - Among those hospitalised were 16 children including choir singers, a regional administration official said.

No one was in serious condition. Most of those hospitalised suffered from headaches and vomiting.

Emergency services were called to the scene when a couple of members of the audience became ill, and after determining there were very elevated carbon monoxide levels in the air, evacuated the 250 people from the church in the town of Phalempin.

"Peope were immediately directed towards a reception room where they underwent medical exams on a case-by-case basis," said the chief of staff for the regional prefecture, Gisele Rossat-Mignod.

Some 20 paramedics provided people oxygen and examined them for symptoms of poisoning from the colourless and odourless yet highly toxic gas, which can also cause confusion, tiredness, and fainting.

Officials suspect the heating system released the gas into the poorly ventilated church, although they said the furnace had been inspected Friday.

"Looking back, I think if the two people hadn't become ill, then in a few more minutes some people could have had much more serious problems," said Thierry Lazaro, the deputy mayor of the town, who attended the concert.

Carbon monoxide poisoning, which blocks the absorption of oxygen in the blood, can lead to death in less than one hour.

Regional officials first said 24 people had been hospitalised.


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