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‘Mass casualty’ drug overdose in California kills at least one, hospitalizes dozen

Authorities in California said the powerful drug fentanyl is believed to be behind the overdose death of one person, and sending more than twelve people to the hospital on Saturday morning, including two police officers.

Officials learned of the “mass overdose” in Chico just after 9 a.m. on Saturday, CNN reports, citing authorities.

The fire chief in the city, Jesse Alexander, told KHSL that he witnessed “six people undergoing CPR at the same time” at the scene, adding that “it was the largest mass casualty incident he had seen in years.”

In addition to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, Chico Police Chief Michael O’Brien said another unidentified substance is also likely to blame, citing the former as the “main” culprit.

According to the DEA’s website, fentanyl is “100 times stronger than morphine,” adding that many overdoses occur when victims believe they’re buying heroin, but instead unknowingly purchase the powerful drug. The agency said the drug is used most commonly with other opioids for chronic or breakthrough pain to help relieve conditions such as pain caused by cancer.

A male victim “was pronounced dead on arrival,” while “12 adults were hospitalized,” according to the news station.

Further, two responding police officers were also affected by the drug’s powerful effects, but were subsequently evaluated and released from a medical facility.

O’brien said life-saving measures were taken by authorities at the home where the overdoses occurred, including the administration of “six doses of Naloxone.” According to the U.S. Drug and Mental Health Services Administration, Naloxone “blocks opioid receptor sites, reversing the toxic effects” of drug overdoses from substances including heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone.

The scene of the mass overdose is “being treated as a hazardous materials site” while a probe into the incident continues.

If emergency responders weren’t equipped with Naloxone, the situation “would have been worse,” the police chief said.

[Feature photo: Fentanyl/DEA]