herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Medical students flee chemical blast

CORDON: Army blows up toxic acid in city centre drama

MEDICAL students had to be evacuated in Dublin city centre to allow a controlled explosion to be carried out on an explosive chemical at the Royal College of Surgeons.

The trainee doctors were told to leave the Royal College of Surgeons, which is just off St Stephen's Green, shortly after midday yesterday.

A controlled explosion was carried out by the Army Bomb Disposal Unit after the college was evacuated for several hours as a safety precaution. Some streets were also closed off.

A college spokesperson said that as a result of a routine health and safety self-assessment, an unstable chemical, picric acid, was found.

Picric acid is a highly volative substance used in laboratories as a stain and an antiseptic, but is also a military explosive. For safety it is stored in water and tends to become dangerously sensitive and unstable if the acid is kept for a long time, or if improper storage allows the liquid to evaporate.

"The necessary precautions were immediately taken in order to stabilise the chemical. In the interest of health and safety the building was evacuated as a precautionary measure. The relevant authorities were immediately informed," the college said.





Alarm

The bomb squad, operating with the assistance of the Dublin Fire Brigade Chemical Incident Unit and the gardai, was called to the scene at 12.30pm and a controlled explosion was carried out at waste ground on York Road opposite the college.

The scene was declared safe at 2.30pm. York Street, St Stephen's Green West and Mercer Street were all closed throughout the incident.

One undergraduate told the Herald a chemical leaked into another chemical, causing the potential for an explosion.

"They told us to evacuate the building -- they said it was a leak," the student added. College authorities apologised for "any inconvenience caused to the public" and thanked the emergency services.

York Street resident Tina Dodd, who was attempting to return to her apartment, said she was "very worried" that something like that could happen across from her home.

comurphy@herald.ie

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