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Carbon Monoxide Leak Sends North Mac Students To Hospital

NOTE: This story has been updated.  More than 130 students and a few staff members from North Mac Intermediate School in Girard have been taken to hospitals with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. North Mac superintendent Marica Cullen said a leaky pipe caused significantly high carbon monoxide levels, and the school - with about 640 students, was evacuated around 9 am she said.

Cullen says the number of affected students may continue to rise, as parents are being told to take their children directly to the hospital if they show any signs of being sick.

"All students were conscious, all students were coherent. We did call 9-1-1 and it was amazing to see the outpouring of support from other communities. Their volunteer fire-rescue rigs just flooded this building - and brought oxygen (which) was what those kids need(ed) and they needed it immediately and those surrounding communities were here, they answered the call," said Cullen.

Affected students were middle-school aged at North Mac Intermediate. Students not taken to local hospitals were taken to nearby churches where they were being monitored for signs of illness, authorities said. Several students complained about feeling nauseous, Cullen said.

The school building has been closed and parents have been notified, officials said. Girard is in Macoupin County, about 25 miles southwest of Springfield.

The source of the leak was a flue that came loose on a gas-powered boiler, and repairs have been made, school board member Terri Worth said. Officials said the gas was shut off and the building was being aired out. 

School is canceled for all North Mac district schools Tuesday as a safety precaution.

St. John's Hospital said 46 people were brought there and 3 students were admitted.  Memorial Medical Center treated 72 students and staff with no admissions. 15 people were taken to Carlinville Area Hospital.

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Rachel Otwell of the Illinois Times is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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