Mystery over Ashburton pig deaths

No human casualties or illness have been reported following the mysterious deaths of more than half a dozen pigs at a farm in Ashburton, according to the Fire Service.

Members of the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade were called to a pig farm, five km east of the town at 8.43 this morning, after receiving reports of dead animals.

Senior Fire Officer Alan Burgess said the incident was being treated as a case of contaminated animal product, and a leaking container suspected of containing the product had been identified.

There was no suggestion at this stage that humans were in any danger.

"We are still trying to identify what was in the container

"A number of pigs have died and we are trying to track down how they have been disposed of. There have been conflicting reports, but it appears seven or eight pigs have died.

However, Mr Burgess said the issue had been "complicated'' by the death of the farm owner's family cat over night.

"We are just trying to identify people that may have been exposed to this thing, and may know what it is.''

The farm had not been quarantined, but an ambulance was on stand-by at the property and a Hazmat truck from Timaru was on site.

He added that the issue was being treated as chemical in nature, and there was no suggestion that it was linked to diseases such as Foot and Mouth.

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