Police in suburban Chicago have confirmed that they are treating as a criminal act a chlorine gas leak that sent 19 people to the hospital and caused thousands of guests to be evacuated.
The chlorine gas attack took place at the Hyatt in Rosemont, which was hosting Furfest – an annual convention of “Furries;” that is, people who like to dress in animal costumes, The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
The Rosemont Public Safety Department confirmed to The Chicago Tribune that reports of the chlorine gas attack began coming in at about 12:40 A.M. today. First responders located the source of the chlorine gas leak, which was in the form of a powder, suggesting that the event was an intentional chlorine gas attack.
Nineteen people complained of nausea, dizziness, and headaches and were transported to nearby hospitals. The hotel was evacuated, forcing thousands of convention-goers out into the freezing Chicago winter, where temperatures at the time of the attack hovered around 29 degrees.
Convention-goer Thomas Zell told The Tribune that he and other attendees were partying and having a good time at the Furry convention when he saw people leaving the hotel and congregating outside in the cold. He noted that false alarms and similar pranks are not uncommon at Furry events.
“A lot of people thought this was just someone pulling the fire alarm. But it was serious this time.”
Chris Delaney, who learned of the evacuation via texts from friends, described the chlorine smell as overpowering.
“It was like when you walk into a pool. It was pungent.”
According to the festival’s website, Furfest “celebrate(s) furry fandom, that is, art, literature, and performance based around anthropomorphic animals.” Urban Dictionary explains further that Furries – that is, people who are furry fans – enjoy a weirdly-specific form of amusement based on people dressing like animals.
“As with any hobby, most furries are normal people just like anyone you’ll meet at work/school or going to/from work/school or anywhere. Then there is the small percent that are hard core fans and have taken what for most is a hobby and perverted it (sometimes in an all to [sic] literal sense).”
The Furfest website issued a statement saying that, despite the chlorine gas attack, the festival will continue.
“As we wake up today we want to continue to provide the best possible convention that we can, despite the trying circumstances. The convention will be running on a full normal programming schedule today. We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110% to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night’s unfortunate incident.”
As of this post, there are no suspects and no possible motive in the Chicago chlorine gas attack.
[Image courtesy of: Chicago Sun-Times]