TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A huge ball of fire at a hotpot restaurant in central Taiwan's Changhua County that broke out last night (Nov. 9) at 6 p.m. injured seven, including a 3-year-old girl, reported UDN.
According to a preliminary investigation into the incident, when an attendant surnamed Yang (楊) tried to change the gas tank for a tabletop gas burner in a hotpot restaurant in Changhua County's Xihu Township, he inadvertently left the gas nozzle switched open when he removed the tank. Gas rapidly started leaking and as he frantically tried to switch off the gas, the customers could smell it growing in intensity and many quickly scattered to dodge the impending disaster.
As the attendant continued to struggle mightily to switch off the leaking gas, a family of three surnamed Yang (楊) watched with dread as they were pinned in against the wall, unable to flee. Suddenly, a ball of fire erupted from behind the waiter and in front of the family.
The attendant leaped out of the way, while the wife scampered over her seat and the husband grabbed his daughter and leaped over another seat to try as he tried to shield the little girl from the massive flames. The fire department dispatched 15 fire engines and ambulances the scene and firefighters were able to extinguish the fire within 30 minutes.
All three Yang family members suffered burns, with the 37-year-old father suffering second-degree burns to 26 percent of his body, including his face, scalp, abdomen and hands and legs. His wife, surnamed 巫 (Wu), suffered second-degree burns to 10 percent of her body, including her knee and legs. The little girl suffered second-degree burns to about 20 percent of her body, including her face, neck and hands.
Meanwhile, the 16-year-old attendant Yang, suffered second-degree burns to 24 percent of his body, including face, neck, and scalp, and it there are fears he may suffer facial disfigurement from his wounds. The hospital took measures to prevent infections and transferred him to the intensive care unit for observation.
Charred remains of a hotpot meal. (CNA image)
At the time of the blast, there were 30 people in the restaurant, with seven receiving significant injuries. A witness at the scene told Liberty Times that they heard the telltale whistling sound of escaping gas and someone shouted "Hurry up and get out of here!"
The witness also only saw one person initially being able to leave from the front of the restaurant, many others fled to the back, but fortunately an employee opened the back door for them exit from. The witness reported seeing many people suffering burns, screaming in pain from their wounds, and even some with their skin nearly falling off.
Fire Department Chief Chang Shih-shun (長施順) told Liberty Times that based on a preliminary investigation, the staff member did not comply with the standard operating procedure of changing a gas tank. He did not turn off the source of the gas first, resulting in gas leakage, which soon came in contact with an open flame, thus leading to the explosion.
Chang added that more investigations will be carried out to isolate the exact cause of the fire.
Gas tank moved outside by firefighters. (CNA image)
Police cordon off area to begin investigation. (CNA image)