Al Qaeda in Staffordshire?

7th October 2005 at 01:00
To Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire, the town which would need to be the centre of a major disaster to become better-known than its Geordie namesake.

As if to prepare for just such an eventuality, Newcastle-under-Lyme's students turned out for a decontamination drill with the local fire brigade the other day.

The college had provided 100 students to help the brigade test out Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's latest brainwave - a special vehicle designed to decontaminate up to 400 people per hour should alQaeda switch its attentions to obscure English provincial towns.

Surrounding neighbours twitched their net curtains in anticipation of seeing the mock-disaster unfold on their doorsteps but saw nothing.

It turned out that the show had been called off at the last minute - after the brigade was called out to a real chemical spill around the corner.

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