FIREFIGHTERS were tackling a chemical alert at a North-East factory unit this afternoon.

Reports were received of the chemical release from Rayovac Micro Power Ltd, at Washington, shortly after 2pm.

Chemical fumes were said to be coming from a waste storage unit within the factory, which produces batteries for hearing aids, on Stephenson Industrial Estate.

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Due to the involvement of chemicals, firefighters wearing specialist protection equipment responded to the incident.

Ten appliances attended the scene, with a total of seven pumps and three other special units involved, while nearby Stephenson Road was closed to traffic during the height of the incident.

A spokesman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said first reports did not suggest there were any casualties, although the North-East Ambulance Service had vehicles on stand-by at the scene as a precaution.

The fire crews were still in the midst of tackling the incident by mid-to-late afternoon.

A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said the force was notified of the potential chemical spill by the fire service.

Police officers assisted by helping to close the nearby road to traffic to enable easier access to the scene by fire service vehicles.