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November 27, 2012

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Gas blast spurs exam on safety at hotpot eateries

SHANGHAI authorities said yesterday they will strengthen inspections of gas equipment used by some hotpot eateries, according to Shen Weimin, a spokesman for Shanghai Quality Inspection Bureau.

The move came after an explosion at a hotpot restaurant in Shanxi Province killed 14 and injured 47 others on Saturday, likely after a gas leak, officials said.

Many Shanghai restaurants use electrical hotpots, including induction cookers, but some still use piped-in gas burners and some, often small streetside stores, still employ gas cylinders that are cheap but the most dangerous, a Shanghai Daily investigation found.

Local inspectors said gas cylinders in use for more than 15 years will be eliminated.

"The equipment should be operated and maintained regularly and the users should have records," said Shen.

Customers complained that hotpot places using gas seldom ban ignition sources such as candles and cigarette lighters near the fires, and some staff are ignorant of their equipment's safety instructions.

"Some people even held a birthday party there, and igniting birthday candles with a lighter was allowed," said Yong Dan, a local hotpot fan. A staff member at a branch store of Little Sheep Hotpot on Jiangning Road, in Jing'an District, said yesterday that they do not ban smoking, but it is limited to a smoking area in the restaurant. The restaurant has gas and electrical cookers.

"We ensure the safety of our customers as all the heaters here are approved," said the staff member, surnamed Li.


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