Friday, August 08, 2008

"Wheezing, Collapsing Shoppers In Aisle 2, Ron..."

It's like the opening scenes of a zombies-by-plague horror movie :

Thousands of people were evacuated from a major shopping centre on the Gold Coast yesterday after dozens of shoppers and workers were struck down by a mystery illness.

Helensvale's Westfield shopping centre, one of the Gold Coast's biggest, was locked down just three weeks after the city council's main administration centre was brought to its knees in a similar scare.

Yesterday's drama started about 11am when staff at Westfield's Commonwealth Bank branch reported feeling discomfort and difficulty breathing.

The bank was evacuated by 11.30am and 14 staff members were treated with oxygen after reporting symptoms including shortness of breath and dryness in the airways.

Two were taken to hospital suffering respiratory problems.

Emergency services personnel initially thought the scare was limited to just the bank, but as the day progressed more people were struck down.

After treating almost a dozen more people, emergency workers shut down the northern half of the shopping centre about 3pm before issuing a complete lock-down.

Firefighters and QFRS scientific officers conducted regular air quality tests to determine what was affecting the patients and Brisbane's hazardous materials unit was also called in, but late yesterday the cause of the outbreak was still unknown.