Environmental health teams and fire-fighters were called in when over 50 homes were filled with petrol fumes after 600 litres of fuel escaped from a leaking tank next to a school.

Residents were left feeling sick, dizzy and with throat pains – with some being physically sick – when the unleaded petrol escaped from a tank at the Total filling station in Glenfield Road, Leicester.

The petrol spilled into the sewage system, and the emergency services were flooded with calls from worried residents. Dozens of homes were visited as health officers and firemen took readings and to check if there was an explosion risk.

People were told to keep their windows open to get rid of the fumes, which lasted for eight hours. Fire chief Paul Percival said: “We spent a number of hours going to people’s homes and taking readings to ensure everything was safe from fire or explosion. The smell of petrol was very irritating and was making people’s throats raw – something that can happen even with a fairly small amount of petrol in the air.”

One resident said: “We were told to keep windows open, but that’s not good when the temperature outside was minus five. The smell was coming up through the floor under the stairs where the gas mains come through. We’re really angry. The petrol station is right next to a school.”

Total station owner, Saf Kothia, apologised to people affected and said: “The tank was tested only a week before the leak and I’m also really annoyed to have fuel lost like this.”

Investigations pinpointed the leak to an underground tank.