'Intentional' Gas Leak Sickens 19 at FurFest
Chlorine powder found in stairwell at Chicago-area hotel, thousands evacuated
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2014 1:04 PM CST
Attendees take pictures at a furry convention last month in Knoxville.   (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Thousands of people cleared out of a Chicago-area hotel hosting the 2014 Midwest FurFest convention early today after a leak of chlorine gas that investigators believe was intentional, reports the Chicago Tribune, noting that some evacuees "were dressed as animals." Nineteen people were hospitalized in the incident, which occurred about 12:45am and is being treated as criminal. "A lot of people thought this was just someone pulling the fire alarm," said one witness. "But it was serious this time."

The source of the gas appeared to be powdered chlorine found in a stairwell, adds the AP. "It was like when you walk into a pool," says one witness. "It was pungent." The area was cleared and people were allowed to return hours later. The annual convention "celebrates art, literature and performance based around anthropomorphic animals," notes the Tribune.