HEMPSTEAD - Nearly half a dozen senior citizens were taken to the hospital this morning following a carbon monoxide leak at Hempstead Housing Complex, fire officials say.

Officials say the senior housing complex off Clinton Avenue was filled with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Firefighters quickly notified residents and instructed them to open all the doors and windows at the 144-unit building.

Five elderly people became ill and were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Fire officials say the complex has a gas heating system, and it appears the boiler got backed up and was recirculating exhaust into the building. The heating system has since been shut down and repaired.

"In interviewing the residents, we found out that this has been an ongoing problem for the last two days that the residents have had their CO alarms going off," says Chief Carl Rugg, of the Hempstead Fire Department.

Rugg adds that today's situation could have been prevented had the residents alerted the fire department instead off taking the batteries out of their carbon monoxide detectors to prevent the alarm from going off.