Hotpot eatery in the soup over safety violation

It has no valid licence for storing large amount of flammable materials

A hotpot restaurant where a sudden fire left five diners burnt is now in trouble for illegally storing more than 200kg of petroleum and flammable materials on its premises.

On Tuesday, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) inspected Chong Qing (Original) Steamboat in Beach Road, and found the large amount of flammable materials. According to fire safety rules, eating establishments need approval and a licence before they can store petroleum and flammable materials above 200kg.

Chong Qing did not have a valid licence.

The SCDF told The Straits Times that it will take action against those responsible.

First-time offenders may be fined up to $5,000 while recalcitrant and repeat offenders can be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to six months or both.

Last Saturday morning, five women ended up in hospital with scalds and burns, some on their faces, from a fire at the restaurant which occurred at about 3.45am.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that three of them have since been discharged.

Ms Linda Er, 39, who had suffered third-degree burns to her face, is one of those still warded. According to her friend, 32-year-old artiste Kohji Zhuo, she intends to engage a lawyer once discharged. "But what she really wants is a clear explanation of what happened during that incident," he said.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, although it has been suggested that it could be due to an exploding gas canister.

When The Straits Times visited the restaurant yesterday at around 9pm, more than half of the restaurant, which has switched to using electric stoves, was filled with customers.

Staff said that their boss was abroad and declined to say more.

Spring Singapore, which regulates the safety of consumer products, said that gas cookers and canisters that are typically used in homes are among the 45 categories of controlled goods that must be registered and certified for safety. Its spokesman urged customers buying portable gas cookers or canisters to check for Spring's safety mark.

Experts said users should call authorised dealers when they smell gas and that rooms should be well ventilated while cooking.

Mr Wang Le Chang, a chef at Chuan Yi Pin restaurant in North Bridge Road, said that his hotpot eatery is well ventilated to minimise the risk of fire. "Even if a gas canister has a slight dent, we will send it back to the manufacturer," said the 44-year-old.

Several hotpot restaurants The Straits Times spoke to said they were worried that Saturday's fire could hurt business. Mr Hon Yoke Teng, 25, manager of Arirang Korean Restaurant, said: "Business is still OK. But the news of the fire was reported only on Tuesday, so we may feel the impact in the next few days."

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

andreang@sph.com.sg