40 children hurt, 6 with serious injuries in NC YMCA hazmat leak

DURHAM, N.C. -- A total of 42 people were hospitalized, including 40 children after a chemical leak in a pool at the Durham Downtown YMCA in North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon. Six of the children are in serious condition.

The latest:

* 2 adults and 40 children are hurt, 6 of them seriously
* Sodium Hypochlorite, a chlorine compound often used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent, was leaked
* The Y remains closed

The numbers of people affected have fluctuated from initial reports of 23 hospitalized, to 42 and then 39 as multiple agencies worked to coordinate the scene and release information.

The children affected ranged in age from 6 to 12. The ones not seriously injured were being monitored at the hospital as a precaution.

Those hospitalized showed symptoms such as vomiting, respiratory illness, and skin and eye irritation.

The Durham Downtown YMCA was evacuated Wednesday after what a YMCA spokesperson called a "maintenance issue" and the Durham Fire Department called a reported chlorine leak. Durham FD now says Sodium Hypochlorite was the chemical that leaked, not chlorine.

Hypochlorite is a chemical used for everyday maintenance of swimming pools. The release of the hypochlorite happened in an indoor pool.

Durham Deputy Fire Chief Chris Iannuzzi said the department responded to the call at 2:43 p.m. When firefighters arrived, they found evacuation of the pool area in progress. About 35-40 people - adults and children - were in the pool at the time.

The victims were taken to either Duke University Hospital or Duke Regional Hospital.

"Earlier this afternoon, a lifeguard at our Downtown Durham YMCA reported a strong chemical odor near the pool pump room," the YMCA said in a statement. "YMCA staff immediately contacted EMS. They, in turn contacted the Durham Fire Department who determined that this was a hazmat situation."

There was a reported leak in the disinfection system, Iannuzzi said, but the hazmat team is on site working to determine what leaked and how to "mitigate the situation."

Everyone has been removed from the building at 218 W. Morgan St. The Y was contacting parents who have children there to make them aware of the situation.

A tent was set up outside the YMCA, and Durham police and firefighters worked to evaluate people overcome by fumes.

About 100 campers swam in the Downtown Durham YMCA pool, the Y said. As part of their daily routine, they were taken back to their camp at Club Boulevard Elementary School.

"About 3 p.m., some children began complaining about breathing issues. Our camp staff immediately contacted EMS and began notifying parents," a YMCA spokesperson said.

The YMCA is closed, with no immediate timetable for reopening.
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