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Boy in critical condition after bonfire site incident

A boy is in a critical condition in hospital after apparently coming into contact with hazardous material believed to have been dumped at a bonfire site in Northern Ireland.

Police and health officials have issued a warning to the public after barrels containing the substance were left at the site at Glenwood Street, close to the Shankill Road in north Belfast.

A spokeswoman for the Belfast Health Trust said the boy was in a critical condition.

Children in unionist neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland build bonfires through the early summer ahead of lighting them on July 11 to usher in the main event in the Protestant loyal order marching season, the "Twelfth of July".

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Superintendent Andrea McMullan said: "We are concerned that a number of other young people in the area could have potentially come into contact with this substance and are asking parents and guardians whose children may have visited this bonfire site to closely monitor them.

"The symptoms, which may include redness of the eyes and sore throats, coughing and breathing difficulties, can take up to 36 hours to become visible and I would encourage anyone who has concerns about their children to seek medical advice immediately.

"Any clothing or skin that may have been exposed should be washed to remove residual chemicals that may be left on them."

Democratic Unionist councillor Frank McCoubrey said there was "no excuse" for using bonfire sites as a dumping ground.

"In this case a child has been hospitalised because of whatever substances were dumped at this site," he said.

"I would appeal for anyone who witnessed the material being left at the site to pass on any information to the police.

"My thoughts are with the child and hope they make a full and speedy recovery."

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