(JAMAICA GLEANER) – A major explosion at TAO Restaurant Chinese Cuisine in New Kingston yesterday left two persons with serious injuries and several others with minor burns.
The blackened Knutsford Boulevard building, with smoke billowing from inside, and two damaged vehicles outside, told the story of the midmorning drama.
Some employees were adamant that the explosion could have been prevented.
Santana Spencer, an assistant chef who has been working at the establishment for just over two months, said another employee complained of smelling gas since Monday and informed the management.
He said there were also other signs that something was wrong with the gas line.
“From weh day, di stove dem never really a light good,” he told The Gleaner.
Spencer explained that employees enquired about whether the problem was being addressed and were assured by a boss that it had been addressed by a repairman.
Further, the boss was observed patching the gas cylinder with plastic.
“Today, him guh round there and a look pan it wid him toolbox and come round and ask if everything all right, and if di stove a light … . After that, the next chef come and ask mi fi lay out some baked chicken, and as mi lay it out, mi hear ‘Boom!’” he recounted of the explosion, which started in the kitchen.
Kemar Christopher, the head chef, said the situation was “very unfortunate”.
“Everything blow up! Mi TRN, mi ID, shoes, phone,” the 27-year-old said.
Both Spencer and Christopher suffered minor burns to their feet and arms.
“The glass weh shatter did a come towards we and a run we did haffi run. A over di fence mi jump, you know, ‘cause di building did still deh pan fire,” said a waitress, who declined to give her name.
Trinidad Terrace and sections of Knutsford Boulevard leading to Oxford and Trafalgar roads were blocked off.
Hundreds evacuated buildings in the vicinity of the explosion and a Total service station was shut down.
Three units from the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) responded to the call at 10:04 a.m.
JFB Superintendent Julian Davis-Buckle, head of the Kingston and St Andrew Division, said the cause of the fire has not yeet been determined. She told The Gleaner that a preliminary inspection was conducted yesterday and a comprehensive investigation will be done today.
“We heard that two persons were injured. One was sent to the University Hospital and the lady was sent to Medical Associates,” said Davis-Buckle.
“The lady, we saw her; she came back to the scene. She had obvious burns to her face, her lips, and her hands. It was severe; you could see the scalding of the skin,” Davis-Buckle said.
Firefighters spent hours conducting cooling-down operations.