CHEMICALS were leaked at a Kendal doctor’s surgery and pharmacy, prompting a 24-hour emergency evacuation, after their containers were damaged in transit.

This is the verdict of firefighters called out to Rowlands Pharmacy, on Gillinggate, as dozens of locals were moved outside over fears that leaked fumes could be harmful.

Kendal fire station manager, Steve Sharrock, who oversaw Thursday’s drama, explained that emergency services were called out at around 10.10am.

Fire crews from Kendal, Staveley and Penrith all attended, but had to be withdrawn from the building and decontaminated after it was found that specialist equipment was needed to contain the leak.

A team from the Environmental Protection Unit and staff from the Hazardous Area Response Team were then called in.

It is now thought the leak occurred after chemicals were disturbed in transit, when they were moved from the old building to the new medical centre in December.

An ‘acidic vapour’ was given off by the chemicals, prompting staff to complain of eye irritation which needed medical attention.

Barman Mark Lynch, who lives in a flat on Highgate and took pictures of the scene, said: "The first I was aware of the incident was when I heard a fire engine arriving in Gillinggate.

"Then 15 minutes later, a police car turned up, followed by another fire engine and paramedics."

After being moved outside, staff were asked to wait beyond police tapes at the scene.

Cumbria Police also attended to contain traffic in the area and the lower part of Gillinggate was closed as a result.

Dozens of patients were also forced to miss doctor’s appointments as the building remained shut.

As they battled to keep the area safe, fire crews also took advice on keeping the chemicals away from the water supply.

They took air samples and used high pressure equipment to ventilate the building.

The premises were handed back to the pharmacy the following morning, after being declared safe.

Penny Mair, area manager for Rowlands Pharmacy, said: “Rowlands Pharmacy at Gillinggate, Kendal, is now open fully operational following an incident involving a leakage which was contained within a metal controlled drugs cabinet.

“The incident was attended by the police and fire service and the cabinet has now been safely removed.

“Rowlands Pharmacy followed all advice and instructions of the fire brigade, including commissioning an environmental agency to visit the premises and analyse the air in the building.”

She added: “Rowlands Pharmacy would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by this incident, both to members of the public and to the surrounding buildings, however, it was important to ensure that there was no risk to the public in this situation.”