RESIDENTS in 1066 Country woke up to a mystery smell on Tuesday morning.
The sulphurous stench flooded the nostrils of residents in Hastings and rural Rother, with reports of the pong reaching as far afield as Battle, Robertsbridge and Camber and parts of Kent.
Scores of worried people called East Sussex Fire and Rescue and Sussex Police, whilst thousands more contacted the National Gas Emergency Number.
The National Grid said it would normally expect 8,000 calls to the number, but had received a staggering 60,000 by 10am on Tuesday.
The source of the unpleasant smell was eventually traced to a chemical leak from a factory in Rouen, France.
The smell itself comes from an additive to the gas .
Although the gas has an unpleasant aroma, it is not toxic.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service stressed that the smell had posed no danger to the public.
ESFRS Duty Officer Neal Robinson said: “It appears that a large quantity of Mercaptan (the chemical introduced as a stenching agent to natural gas) had been released from a factory in France.
“The cloud first travelled south, but then travelled north and arrived in Sussex - particularly in the Hastings/Bexhill area, and as far north as Battle.
“Members of the public can be reassured that although the gas had an unpleasant smell, there was no danger to the public.”
The Health Protection Agency said: “It is not toxic and has also been diluted before entering the air over England, so people should be reassured it will cause no harm.
“It is an unpleasant odour which may cause some people to feel slightly nauseous but it will dispel naturally.”
Kent Fire and Rescue Service, which had also received a number of calls about the gas, advised residents to keep their doors and windows shut.
By lunchtime the stench had reached West Sussex, with complaints about the smell coming from as far afield as Worthing.