A mysterious chemical haze that left scores of people on the English coast with streaming eyes, sore throats, and breathing problems has dissipated, but its cause remains a mystery. The gas cloud appeared Sunday, sending people fleeing from the beach and cliffs at Birling Gap, a coastal beauty spot about 60 miles south of London, per the AP. Lifeboats were dispatched to help clear people from beaches, and Eastbourne District General Hospital said it had treated more than 130 people. Sussex Police said the injuries were mostly minor.
"Whatever it was, it smelled like burnt plastic," said a spokesman from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's Eastbourne division. "It hung about and didn't move yesterday because there was no wind. The cloud seems to have dispersed today, though." Pollution has been known to drift to Britain from industrial units in France, but police said wind direction made that unlikely in this case. A Meteorological Office weather forecaster said a vessel in the English Channel may have been responsible, but he stressed that nothing conclusive had been proven yet.