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Chlorine Gas Leak In Chicago Disrupts 'Furries' Convention

Frederic Cesbron, right and Maxim Durand, walk on the street outside the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel i Rosemont, Ill., on Sunday.  Thousands of people were evacuated earlier after a chlorine gas leak at the hotel, which is hosting the 2014 Midwest FurFest convention.

Several thousand hotel guests, many of them convention-goers dressed as animal characters, were forced to evacuate a suburban Chicago hotel early this morning after a chlorine gas leak was detected. Nineteen people who complained of dizziness and nausea were treated and released from the hospital, according to The Associated Press.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

"The incident happened around 12:40 a.m. at the Hyatt, at 9300 West Bryn Mawr Avenue in Rosemont, according to a statement from the Rosemont Public Safety Department. First responders were called to investigate a noxious odor that was spreading across the ninth floor of the hotel, where a high level of chlorine gas was discovered in the air, the statement said. ...

"Technicians decontaminated the area and after conducting several tests deemed the area safe within about two hours. People were allowed back into the building around 3:30 a.m. Some convention-goers, some of whom were dressed up as animal characters, stood outside of the building. Hundreds more were escaping the chilly weather at other buildings."

Police said the substance was released and suggested it was an intentional act. They were investigating the incident as a criminal act, according to the Tribune.

"It was shocking," Morgan Smejkal was quoted by the newspaper as saying as he stood outside the hotel dressed in a red panda animal suit.

Smejkal was one of many at the hotel attending the Midwest FurFest, an annual event for self-described "furries," to "come together to celebrate furry fandom, that is, art, literature, and performance based around anthropomorphic animals," according to the convention's website.

Organizers say last year's Midwest gathering attracted nearly 4,000 attendees, making it the second-largest furry convention in the U.S.

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