A STRONG smell of gas sparked thousands of calls to the emergency helpline.

People in the South East of England reported the odour, which is believed to have come from a chemical factory in northern France, to the National Gas Emergency phone line believing there to be a leak nearby.

National Grid says on an average day it receives 8,000 calls from around the country but by 1pm today it had already received 75,000 calls.

The company says it is very important they do not miss any genuine gas emergencies, so people should call the National Gas Emergency Number 0800 111 999 if they think they can smell gas in their property.

People are advised to keep calling this number if you cannot get through first time.