Mysterious Odor Causes Mid-Day Building Evacuation

DOWNTOWN HONOLULU (KHNL) - A mysterious odor caused an early-afternoon evacuation in downtown Honolulu Friday. People working in the three-story office building were allowed back in, but the mystery continued.

The fire department evacuated close to 60 workers from a three-story office building at Bethel and Merchant streets. They complained of a strong odor inside.

"It smells like ammonia, or hair permanent," said Jayne Lee, an evacuated employee who works in the building's first floor office.

It's a smell, they said, that started the day before.

"The odor appears last night at about six, but it was weak," said Lee. "And then everybody left to go home."

It got stronger as the morning wore on.

"I got a headache," said Diane Lum, another evacuated employee from the building. "Then, burning eyes. It was going up my nose after a while."

"As it lingered, people started to feel the effects: burning eyes, shortness of breath," said Lee.

The hazmat team arrived, just after twelve noon and conducted a thorough search.

"Right now, we have determined the building to be safe and we allowed the people to go back into the building," said Capt. Frank Johnson, a public information officer with the Honolulu Fire Department. "There was nothing out of the ordinary in any of our readings."

Employees said they've never experienced anything like this in the years they've worked here.

"We had a little odor when they were fixing the roof, but not like this," said Lum.

They went back to work, hoping the mysterious smell doesn't come back.

The fire department said it is unlikely they will find out what caused the smell, since it went away by the time the hazmat team arrived.