She was about to get up to pay for her hotpot supper when the portable gas cooker exploded in front of her.
It sent hot soup spewing everywhere, scalding the woman, Ms Linda Er, 39, and her friend.
Three other customers at Chong Qing Original Old Steamboat, all Thais who were sitting nearby, were also splashed by the soup in the incident at about 3.45am last Saturday.
The five victims, all women, were taken to hospital. Some of them suffered third-degree burns on their faces and arms.
The owner of the 24-hour restaurant on Beach Road opposite Shaw Towers, told The New Paper yesterday that he had apologised to his injured customers and offered to help with their medical bills.
The owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang, said that this was the first such incident there.
"We've been around for 18 years and such a thing has never happened before," he said in Mandarin.
Ms Er told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that at the beginning of the meal, she sensed something was wrong with the portable butane cooker as it made strange noises and the fire kept dying out.
"We thought the canister was empty and requested the staff to change it. But even after they did, the cooker still switched off on its own," she said.
So one of the restaurant staff shoved a piece of paper into the canister compartment of the stove.
Ms Er and her friend were about to leave when the cooker exploded.
She felt a sharp pain on her face and arm as hot soup landed on her.
A restaurant assistant, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 31, told TNP that he was doing chores at the back of the restaurant when he heard a bang, following by screams.
He rushed out and saw five customers covered with soup, one of them screaming in pain as her skin glowed red.
"My colleagues and I were so shocked that we didn't know what to do at first. We stood there for a few seconds before going over to help the victims," he said.
Mr Tan called for an ambulance. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it sent two ambulances to the scene.
An SCDF spokesman said that five injured women were taken to Singapore General Hospital.
It is investigating the incident.
One of the Thai women, who works as a singer, was the most seriously injured as more than 90 per cent of her face had been scalded, Lianhe Wanbao reported.
Ms Er, who suffered third-degree burns to her face, shoulder, arm and legs, remains warded in hospital.
She has blisters all over her face, her friend, Mr Kohji Zhuo, 32, told TNP yesterday.
"The stove exploded right in front of her. She had no time to react," Mr Zhuo, an artist, said.
"We're enraged that the restaurant continues to operate as normal even after the incident. Shouldn't they be doing their own investigations and checking their equipment?"
Mr Zhuo said that Ms Er's friend, who was not so seriously hurt, was discharged from hospital yesterday.
Mr Zhang said that he replaces all the portable butane cookers every year as a safety precaution.
He said that the cooker might have blown because the butane canister was faulty. He has now switched to using portable electric cookers.
"We've spoken to our insurance agent and we will do our best to help the victims with the medical bills, especially when they are our regular customers," he said.
"We are not trying to shirk responsibility. We will do our part to ensure this doesn't happen again," he said.
COOKERS BANNED IN AUSTRALIA
Portable butane cookers, also known as "lunchbox" cookers, were banned last month in the eastern Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) over safety concerns.
NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe warned that such cookers have a risk of overheating and exploding.
"If these products malfunction, they can potentially cause serious injuries and I'd encourage people to stop using them," he said.
This was after a 33-year-old Australian died after suffering from 100 per cent burns to his body when one such cooker exploded and ripped through his caravan.
Singapore Civil Defence Force has issued a safety advisory on the handling of such cookers.
For safe handling:
Ensure that there are no naked flames nearby when changing the gas cylinder.
Keep windows open and the kitchen well ventilated while cooking.
Never leave cooking unattended or place flammable items near the flame.
If your wok or other cookware catches fire:
Cover it with a wet cloth and the fire will be extinguished. Do not pour water on it as the fire will spread.
Turn off the gas supply immediately.
Additional reporting by David Sun.
This article was first published on Apr 8, 2015.
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