Hotpot eatery fire: Burn victim plans to seek compensation from owner

THE woman left with serious burns in a flash fire when a steamboat restaurant's hotpot cooker exploded in front of her last week has had half of her hair burned off.

Her fingers are stiff and she has gone through a skin graft. She has also been taking two different painkillers every day.

The injuries are a constant reminder for Ms Linda Er, 39, who met with the accident while having supper at Chong Qing (Original) Old Steamboat after a long night at work.

The bartender had turned up with a colleague at the restaurant in Beach Road at about 3am on April 4.

"Throughout the course of our meal, we complained to the waiter that the switch kept tripping and the fire kept dying out. There were also clicking noises coming from the stove," Ms Er said in Mandarin.

"The waiter didn't do anything the first time we told him about it. He just switched on the stove again. When the fire went out the second time, he changed the gas canister, thinking that it could be empty."

After the switch tripped a third time, the waiter stuffed a piece of paper into the canister compartment to prevent the switch from tripping.

But a few minutes later, the switch tripped again.

By then Ms Er and her colleague had finished their meal and they decided to leave.

"Just as we stood up, the cooker exploded right in front of us. The fire shot up and I could feel my whole face burning. My arms and hands were also burned," said Ms Er.

"I was stunned and fell back onto my chair. My friend was burned on her face and leg. I heard people screaming at the next table."

She said the restaurant staff came over and took them to wash away the food that had splashed on them.

The explosion landed five women in hospital with scalds and burns.

It was previously reported that Ms Er and another woman suffered third-degree burns on their faces.

Ms Er, who underwent a skin grafting procedure, said: "I am still in pain. I have to take two different painkillers every day now. I still can't move my right arm and my fingers feel stiff. I don't know how I can return to work.

"My eyebrows are gone and half of my hair was burnt. I have to cut my hair even shorter than before."

Ms Er, who is married with a 14-year-old son, plans to seek compensation from the restaurant owner.

Asked if she will stop having steamboat after her horrific experience, she replied: "No. But I will eat only at restaurants that use electric cookers."

joycel@sph.com.sg