Foul Smell Encircles London

U.K. media blames France, but meterologists say French not responsible.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 12:20 AM

LONDON, April 18, 2008 — -- Commuters in London and its neighboring towns and villages in southern England woke up to an unusual smell Friday morning: a stink that led many to wonder if the city's sewers had overflowed.

Not even the queen was spared, as newspapers reported that Windsor Castle also suffered from the effects of the putrid smell.

The U.K. Meteorological Office (Met Office) was quick to assure callers that there was no reason to panic.

The foul smell was not English, Sarah Holland, a forecaster for the Met Office told the BBC. "The origins of the smell come from Europe," she said.

British tabloid, The Daily Mail was quick to attack the French for "le stink," reporting that "freak weather" had caused the "French stench" to come to England.

But, according to Helen Chivers, a forecaster at the Met Office, the smell actually came across "from Northern Europe."

"The weather situation recently has meant that the air over Germany, Belgium and Holland hasn't moved for a while," Chivers explained in an interview with ABC News.

"One doesn't know whether the origins of the smell are industrial or agricultural, but we think it's built up over time, since it was trapped in the atmosphere for a while. That's why it's so intense," she said.

But she insisted there was no reason to panic. "This sort of thing happens from time to time. It's not so uncommon. There is no health hazard to worry about," she said.

Despite the pungency of the smell, a London Fire Brigade spokesman confirmed to ABC News Friday that the brigade had "not received any calls about it today."

For the time being, Chivers said that "the weather situation will likely stay the same over the weekend."

Londoners need not worry too much: The one thing that might help dissipate the smell is rainfall, hardly a rarity in London.

"The smell will probably ease up somewhat because of the expected rainfall over the weekend," Chivers said.

And if for some reason Londoners have a sunny, rainfree weekend, trans-Atlantic winds next week will help shift the foul fumes out of southern England, according to Chivers.