SANTA TERESA, N.M. (KRQE) - A National Guard unit mobilized Tuesday to help local authorities figure out what sickened as many as 200 people in an industrial area in southern Doña Ana County.
Three of those people were hospitalized and the others treated at the scene for what was described as difficulty breathing, light-headedness, nausea and dizziness.
Late in the day it still was not known what caused the problem in the industrial park at Santa Teresa Tuesday morning.
Whatever it was, emergency responders ordered an evacuation of a one-mile radius and sent in hazardous-materials specialists.
About 100 evacuees were taken to Santa Teresa High School. Among them was Luis Aguilar who experienced some of the symptoms.
"Yes, I did," Aguilar said. "A lot of us did. There was scratching on the throat."
Three people were sent to the hospital in El Paso, Texas, about 15 miles away. Their medical conditions are not known.
Initial testing did not show any chemicals in the air, according to the state Emergency Operations Center. Classes at Santa Teresa High were not affected either by the hazardous material or the evacuees, according to county officials.
During the afternoon the National Guard Civil Support Team deployed 17 of its personnel and their sophisticated equipment to the scene on the desert mesa several miles west of the community of Santa Teresa.
"They'll be able will to test the spill, the contaminants, the chemicals and give the local authorities there an idea if they are lethal or nonlethal," said Col. Michael Montoya, New Mexico National Guard public affairs officer.
The incident commander said the investigation initially centered on the FoamEx plant, which manufactures foam products and had several railroad tank cars parked on a siding on the property. However a late update from the scene indicated the investigation had expanded beyond that plant.
KRQE News 13 attempted to contact FXI, parent company of FoamEx, but its headquarters in Philadelphia were closed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Late in the afternoon evacuation orders were lifted, and the Doña Ana County Emergency Operations Center deactivated.
However the industrial park was still closed, and the adjacent Doña Ana County Airport at Santa Teresa remained closed to air traffic.
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