TAMPA, Florida. – Three people were hospitalized and ten others suffered minor injuries following a hazardous substance incident at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Outpatient Clinic on Thursday morning.
According to the clinic, the facility had several electrical problems on Wednesday, and when staff entered the building on Thursday morning, they smelled a smell coming from the MRI room and called 911.
Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue teams arrived at the clinic, located at 12220 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa they say they found a bank of lithium-ion batteries that were swollen.
Firefighters who arrived on the scene say the bundle of batteries “gassed out” and they called in a specialized chemical protection team to find out what was going on.
HCFR says they determined that 30 lithium-ion batteries, weighing about 100 pounds each, bulged and released gases, two of which ruptured and caused the incident.
HCFR reported on Thursday afternoon that the entire rack of batteries had been removed from the building. Crews are expected to place each of the batteries in a neutralizing agent in a secure drum, which they say will be removed by a third party.
Ron Herrin, PIO with HCFR, stated that there was no fire risk, but there was outgassing and these batteries contain a bunch of gases that can be toxic, prompting them to evacuate the building before the batteries were removed.
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The clinic said about 80 people, including patients and staff, were evacuated from the building as a precaution and checked for any symptoms. According to representatives of the clinic, three employees were taken to the district hospital due to respiratory diseases.
Herrin says no firefighters were hurt during the hazardous substances incident. HCFR reports that there is no threat to the neighboring area.
Fire officials said that now that the batteries have been removed, they will use fans to ventilate the building to a safe level. All services at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Outpatient Clinic were canceled for Thursday while firefighters investigate.