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Foul Smelling Fumes Cause an Evacuation Scare at Charles III College

It was quite a scare. Resulting from some abnormal chemical reaction in the pool technical room involving a chlorine-like smell, the odour could be detected in some classrooms. Even though the toxicity levels were low the intrusion of what appeared to be a small amount of a foul smelling chlorine-related gas on Wednesday into the classrooms of Charles III school caused an  understandable emotional stir and anxiety as much as it did health irritations that required treatment at CPHG for ultimately 10 out of 56 persons, mainly students screened by firemen of the emergency services who swiftly responded. 

Discomfort yes, irritations of the respiratory tract and eyes and minor asthmatic reaction for a few yes, but no effects that would rise to the level of casualty. They all left the hospital without any negative consequences. The medical-psychological unit was ready but did not need to be activated. 

Prompt response from emergency services and good reflexes from the students, so such so that it is reported Patrice Cellario praised the prompt response of the forty firefighters mobilized, the three SMUR doctors, and the Public Safety department, commending the students’ and teachers’ quick thinking.

And so it was thought that normal class activities could resume the next day, Thursday after thorough testing revealed zero toxicity in the environment. 

Not so unfortunately, because while classes did resume on Thursday several students, and one teacher who fainted, reported feeling unwell.

Continued testing revealed no toxicity in the environment while, of course, the unwell students and teachers were examined by medical experts from CPHG. 

Reports on the results of the medical examinations concluded that there were no obvious symptoms linked to toxicity. 

So winter illnesses, anxiety and psych-somatic reactions were the more evident conclusions to be drawn. 

Nevertheless, as a precaution, classes ended on Thursday afternoon and the school closed for the weekend … a sensible precaution even though objective assessments of any health risk and environmental risk meant zero health-related problems remaining. 

Christophe Robino, Minister for Health  and Social Affairs, was present at the site Thursday afternoon, alongside his colleague from the Interior, Patrice Cellario. It is reported the two ministers held a summary meeting with the conclusion that the risk of intoxication was zero in the building and that the observed phenomenon likely had other sources.

And independent experts have been called in, a measure that will help to reduce anxiety from parents, students or teachers. 

So on Friday there were no classes, rather there were technicians from the inspection organizations Apave, Socotec, and Veritas for detection and measurements of potential chemical pollutants. 

How it happened 

Wednesday morning, technicians were performing routine maintenance on the school’s pool from the technical room when a chemical reaction generated significant toxic fumes, reaching classrooms. Specifically, it is reported the wing of the college housing 6th and 5th-grade students was affected. 

The phenomenon led to the evacuation of the 400 or 500 people present in that wing of the building at that time and the confinement of students in the other part of the college.

Following this, 56 people were attended to by emergency services, presenting symptoms of irritation or discomfort, and ten people were transported to the CHPG.

The ten individuals transported to the CHPG have been discharged.

And the next day on Thursday it is reported Firefighters and volunteers from the Monaco Red Cross set up a “field hospital” in the college’s multipurpose room where around fifty people were taken, complaining of headaches and nausea related to the odor in the establishment. They were all examined by Professor Yann-Erick Claessens, head of emergency services at the CHPG, who did not observe any worrying pathologies.

Return to normalcy, if all readings confirm it, is scheduled for Monday morning.

Necessary Follow Up and Hearings 

There will be a hearing with respect to the two technicians – who were treated at the CHPG – to determine any human responsibility. And if it is deemed necessary there will also be a review of the procedures for maintenance of the pool. 


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