Tuesday, January 09, 2007

City-Wide Smell of Gas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A powerful, mysterious smell of gas wafted through much of Manhattan and parts of New Jersey on Monday, forcing building evacuations and a temporary suspension of commuter train service before dissipating by mid-afternoon.

Officials were quick to stress that the natural gas-like odor was not dangerous, but at least 19 people went to hospital suffering minor complaints and its wide extent provoked jitters in a city that is constantly reminded of the September 11 attacks.


Seven people went to the hospital seeking treatment in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York, although New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the odor was not dangerous and no unusual gas leaks had been found.

"It may just be an unpleasant smell, but at this point we do not know any more than that. The one thing we are confident about is, it is not dangerous," Bloomberg told a news conference.

"The city's air sensors do not report any elevated level of natural gas," he said.

The natural gas-like smell permeated lower Manhattan and was detected as far north as Central Park, across the width of the island, and in New Jersey.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman said there was no indication of a terrorism connection.

Don't know where the smell of gas was coming from. What I do know is that I definitely noticed it in my apartment (quite a few blocks North of Times Square) when I stopped by, around noon, to drop something off. The odd thing was that the smell was concentrated in a hallway and the kitchen [both towards the inside of the building], and not so much in the rooms with the open windows, the ones facing the street. [Since my stove basically serves as a storage cabinet, I knew it wasn't the culprit.]

My (somewhat conspiratorial) theory is that this incident represents a terrorist probe. Better make sure I find one of those buses with the God ad to insure I'm protected in case of a real emergency.


More dead birds, this time in Australia:

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian authorities are investigating the mysterious deaths of hundreds of birds that dropped from the sky over a small coastal town in a period of a few weeks.

Residents of Esperance in Western Australia found their suburban properties littered with the bodies of honeyeaters, wattle birds and yellow-throated miners, local media reported this week.


Hamilton, chief executive of the country's main bird conservation group, Birds Australia, said he had never heard of bird deaths on the scale seen in Esperance.

"Certainly several hundred birds have been reported dead to the department of the environment but it may be up to several thousand as not every dead bird would have been reported."

He said the only possible explanations would be a sudden epidemic of disease or a natural or manmade toxic substance.

"No other animal groups seem to be affected, we're not turning up dead cats and dogs and marsupials," he said. "It's a mystery."

The states' department of food and agriculture has conducted autopsies on several birds.

"It doesn't appear to be an infectious cause. Certainly, one thing that is being considered is a toxin," said acting chief veterinary officer Fiona Sunderman.

"The birds are dying around sprinklers, water tanks, bird baths. They're seeking water and they're dying around those water points," said district nature conservation co-ordinator Mike Fitzgerald.



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