Four people were taken to a hospital Tuesday night after they complained of unease due to suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a Sham Shui Po restaurant.
The four — two men and two women, all aged between 49 and 53 — were eating at a hotpot restaurant where they are believed to have inhaled carbon monoxide from a charcoal stove.
According to Metro Daily, the diners had a charcoal stove laid out before them to keep a popular Cantonese dish they were having — mutton and beancurd in ceramic pot — hot.
The stove is believed to have emitted poisonous fumes, causing discomfort to the diners. As they complained that they were feeling giddy, they were taken to a hospital.
Three of them were treated and discharged from the hospital, while the fourth person — a 50-year-old male — refused any medication.
According to the report, charcoal stoves are normally used in the outdoor section of the Sham Shui Po restaurant.
But on Tuesday a group of customers requested a stove be set up on their table indoor as there were no vacant tables in the outdoor section.
When this group had their request met, people sitting on three other indoor tables also sought a similar privilege.
The management complied with the patrons’ wishes, leading to a situation where a total of four charcoal stoves were in operation indoor under one roof.
This is what caused the four diners to fall sick.
The restaurant, which operates as a ‘Dai Pai Dong’ outlet and is famous for its charcoal hotpot and claypot rice, is located at 31 Shek Kip Mei Street, according to Ming Pao Daily News.
When the paper’s reporters visited the restaurant on Wednesday, they found the indoor area well ventilated with air conditioning and exhaust fans.
The eatery owner, a person surnamed Hong, told Ming Pao that charcoal burners are intended for outdoor use, and that cassette gas stoves are normally used for indoor hotpot.
On Tuesday, some diners may have had problems as the air conditioning was turned off inside the room following a request from other customers.
Hong stressed that the entire floor is well ventilated and that other customers were feeling fine.
Following the incident, the restaurant has temporarily stopped providing charcoal stoves.
Police and firemen visited the restaurant on Wednesday to check for possible gas leak, while Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) staff also conducted inspections.
An FEHD spokesperson pointed out that a restaurant would need to apply for the necessary license if it wants to use any fuel that is other than that specified in its original license application.
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