Five injured as gas cylinder explodes in UAE cafeteria

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Five injured as gas cylinder explodes in UAE cafeteria

The case has been handed over to the police for an investigation.


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Published: Thu 24 Jan 2019, 11:54 AM

Last updated: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 7:59 AM

A blast stirred up panic among residents in Al Rashidya early Wednesday morning. It was so loud many thought a bomb had exploded or a building's lift had crashed from the topmost floor - it was neither. The explosion happened due to a gas leak at a Feza cafeteria in the area.

Five people were hurt in the incident, including two customers, two workers and the gas cylinder delivery man who suffered serious injuries and was taken straight to an intensive care unit. The other four were discharged from the hospital later in the afternoon.

Tailors in a shop opposite the café said they panicked at the sound of a loud bang and rushed outside to check where it came from. Screams echoed after the explosion.

"We saw men bleeding and screaming. Shattered glass covered the floor and debris were all over the storefront. A few minutes later, police and civil defence teams and an ambulance arrived," said one of the tailors.

According to Civil Defence officials, they immediately responded to a call they got at 4.40am from residents who said they heard a loud blast in their neighbourhood. Firefighters were sent to the site and they didn't find a concrete source that may have caused the blast. The case has been handed over to the police for an investigation.

Saju Suleiman, an Indian national who owned the cafeteria, told Khaleej Times that the incident happened when the gas cylinder delivery man came to replace an empty tank.

"We have two cylinders that are located in a ventilated box outside the shop. The man replaced the empty cylinder, sealed it, and then went to check the connections inside the kitchen," said Suleiman.

Trying to connect the cylinder to the stove in the kitchen, the man grabbed the gas hose and disconnected it from the burner that was then turned off, he said.

"The explosion happened exactly then. I think the little amount of gas that might have been left in the hose could have caused the explosion."

Suleiman clarified that the gas cylinders were left undamaged, which could mean these were not the exact cause of the blast. "Both the cylinders are fine, and they are far from where the damage happened."

Tables, chairs, refrigerators, the stove and other kitchen equipment, along with the glass entrance, were all destroyed in the blast, Suleiman said, estimating his loss at Dh150,000. The café is part of his Feza chain that serves light meals and hot drinks in Ajman.

Terrified residents

Speaking to Khaleej Times, resident Adil Bader Al Deen said he thought the blast "came from a bomb".

"I calmed down and walked to the cafeteria where I came to know that the explosion occurred due to a gas leak. I knew right then and there that it was not an explosion of the cylinder itself, as that would have killed everyone inside.

"The authorities arrived in less than five minutes, comforted all the terrified people in the area and rushed the injured to the hospital," he said.

Mohammed, an Egyptian who works as a security guard at the building across the street, said he first thought "the lift in our building had plummeted".

A top official at the Ajman Civil Defence said the department has been taking preventive measures to ensure residents' safety, carrying out inspections in commercial, industrial and residential areas.

Lt-Col Mustafa Sultan Al Ali urged restaurant and cafeteria owners to always check the validity and condition of their gas cylinders and conduct periodic maintenance of stoves and ovens.

Aside from keeping them outside the kitchen, cylinders must also be properly installed and sealed, he said.

"The cylinder must not be kept in an area exposed to sunlight and it must not be stored beside flammable materials. The cafeteria workers must be told to leave the windows open to avoid (build-up of flammable gas in case of) any leakage," he added.

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