‘Apocalyptic’ fire engulfs Scottish island used for anthrax experiments


An uninhabited Scottish island where the government once conducted anthrax experiments has been engulfed in a huge fire.

Witnesses to the blaze on Gruinard Island, off the northwest coast of Scotland, described seeing the ‘apocalyptic’ blaze burning ‘end to end’ on Saturday.

The island was used for germ warfare experiments during World War II before being declared anthrax-free by the Ministry of Defense in April 1990.

Donna Hopton, who runs the Gairloch Marine Wildlife Centre, said she saw smoke coming from the island as she walked her dog in the hamlet of Second Coast around 6pm on Saturday.

“It spread very slowly, it started on one side until the whole island was swallowed up. It looked volcanic,” Ms Hopton said. The Independent.

“It’s quite sad that there are a lot of wildlife on this island, there are white tailed eagles, oystercatchers, a lot of birds are nesting on this island. I could smell the smoke, it was the smell of burning wood, you could see it in the air, it was a really red glow.

Ms Hopton said the flames lasted for five to six hours before finally falling asleep after midnight.

Speaking to STV News, Nessie Gearing and her mother Kate said they saw the flame-lit sky from their home in Aultbea on the mainland.

Kate said: “We were at home and saw an orange glow in the sky and thought we would investigate.”

Nessie added: “Driving up to him was just apocalyptic.” The couple said they could hear birds “screaming” as they watched the fire from the shore.

Plumes of smoke coming from the island on Saturday evening

(Donna Hopton – Gairloch Marine Life Centre)

Kate said: “It was awful. I’ve never seen anyone on the island, no one ever goes there, no one wants to go.

The 25-year-old said the scene was like “hell fire”.

“There was a chain of flames around the entire circumference of the island,” she said.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said the island fell outside its jurisdiction as it is uninhabited.

Earlier this week he issued a warning that the risk of wildfires was ‘very high’ in central, south and north-east Scotland until March 30 and urged the public to be extra careful when visiting the countryside.

Witnesses described the sound of birds ‘screaming’ during the fire

(Donna Hopton – Gairloch Marine Life Centre)

Gruinard Island was uninhabited when the government tasked scientists with finding a way to weaponize anthrax to counter a potential biological weapon developed by the Nazis during World War II.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterium, especially when inhaled, and proves fatal in almost all cases, even with medical treatment.

Ministry of Defense records released 50 years after the experiments revealed that mainland cows and sheep had died unusual deaths following exposure to a cloud of anthrax.

Both ends of the island were engulfed in flames according to witnesses

(Donna Hopton – Gairloch Marine Life Centre)

Porton Down scientists returned to the island to clean up anthrax in 1986, displaying warning signs of the biological threat for the first time.

They sprayed the soil with seawater and formaldehyde before it was tested at Porton Down and subsequently declared free of anthrax on April 24, 1990.


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