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10 July 2013, 10:35
A "critical incident'' was declared at the Port of Dover today after 15 asylum seekers were found in a tanker on board a cross-Channel ferry.
They were discovered on P&O's Spirit of France this morning and two have been taken to hospital amid inquiries to discover whether any hazardous substance was on board.
None of those found in the tanker was in a life-threatening condition and two drivers have been held in custody, a Port of Dover Police spokeswoman said.
Ferry services have not been affected by the alert at the Eastern Docks and the port remains open as emergency teams continue inquiries.
A Port of Dover Police spokesman said: "The Port of Dover can confirm that a critical incident is under way concerning 15 asylum seekers found in a tanker on board P&O's Spirit of France.
"Emergency services are at the scene and are dealing with the situation in close co-operation with port staff. Thirteen of the asylum seekers are non-critical but two have been taken to hospital.
"Two drivers are in custody. The port is open. Ferry services are currently unaffected.''
Kent Fire and Rescue Service said it sent six fire engines and some specialist equipment to the scene.
It said: "Kent Police, SECAmb (South East Coast Ambulance Service), the Border Control Agency and the HMRC are also in attendance and dealing with the situation in close co-operation with port staff.''
Along with its sister ship Spirit of Britain, Spirit of France is the largest ferry built for the Calais-Dover crossing. It weighs more than 47,000 gross tons and is more than 213m long.
A P&O spokeswoman said the company had no comment to make.
Examination of the tanker was continuing this morning but police said a powder found on board was non-hazardous/
A SECAmb spokesman said two people were taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
He said: "We didn't have any reports of anyone in a life-threatening condition but the people needed to be checked over, with some having minor breathing difficulties and chest pains.
"We sent a total of eight vehicles, of which three were ambulances.''