Bamber Bridge toxic hand grenade fumes hurt 13

Self-igniting phosphorus grenade
Image caption Approximately six million of the grenades were made during WWII

Thirteen people needed hospital treatment for chemical burns and the effects of breathing in toxic fumes after coming into contact with a World War II hand grenade in Lancashire.

Fire crews were called to Sprint Print, in Bamber Bridge, on Thursday after workmen disturbed a stockpile of phosphorus grenades in a sealed cellar.

Casualties included workmen, shop staff, paramedics and hospital staff.

The injured responded well to treatment and have since been allowed home.

At the height of the incident five fire engines, a hazardous materials unit, mobile fire station and approximately 40 firefighters were sent to the scene on Station Road and a 50m exclusion zone was put in place.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said six other devices were also found in the cellar, which had been sealed off for years.

'Dad's Army'

Phil Cox, from Lancashire Fire Service, described the incendiary device as a "Dad's Army-type" device.

Image caption Employees of Sprint Print were among those exposed to the fumes

He said: "They were self-igniting phosphorus grenades known as SIPs, which were made by the Home Guard and according to the bomb disposal team who assisted us, there were approximately six million made and hidden in various places.

"They were designed in a glass bottle. They had phosphorus and a fuel, namely benzene in. You would throw it and it would break and when exposed to air it ignites and that would be your incendiary device."

He added: "Ironically, the cellar was under the old Bamber Bridge Fire Station and we were sat on top of them for over 50 years, totally unaware of them."

Two workmen from a drainage company were investigating a report of damp masonry when the stockpile was disturbed.

The workmen and three employees of Sprint Print were exposed to the fumes.

Two paramedics and six hospital staff at the Royal Preston Hospital, where the casualties were taken, also had breathing difficulties.

One of those injured suffered blisters to his arms.

The fire service said the grenades had been removed and were being disposed of safely in a controlled explosion.

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