Sri Lanka orders probe into mystery cooking gas explosions


COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's parliament convened a special committee on Wednesday to investigate dozens of unexplained cooking gas explosions and fires in kitchens around the country.

Following police and media reports of about 14 explosions in a single day, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday appointed an eight-member committee to investigate and provide a report within two weeks.

Consumer Affairs Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna told parliament that on average 10 explosions were being reported daily.

"We accept that more than 40% of Sri Lanka's 5.1 million households are living in fear because of this issue. Businesses are also affected. The government is on the side of consumers and once investigations are complete a full report will be presented to the House," he told parliament on Tuesday.

A McDonald's restaurant in the capital Colombo was gutted from fire caused by a gas leak on Nov. 20. Since then multiple incidents of gas cookers exploding or catching fire have grabbed headlines.

Some consumers have moved cylinders outside or started to cook in their gardens. Videos of do-it-yourself leak tests have flooded social media.

Milinda Premachandra's wife suffered severe burns when their cooker exploded in their small eatery in Colombo.

"My wife will never be the same again. My whole life has fallen apart," he said.

"The authorities must do something soon. Someone must answer for what is happening to innocent people."

State-run Litro gas, which provides more than 80% of Sri Lanka's liquefied petroleum gas cylinders for both domestic and commercial use, rejects claims that the explosions are due to a change in the propane and butane mix of cylinders introduced earlier this year.

It instead blames faulty regulators and dilapidated stoves, and has not recalled any cylinders.

(Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe in Colombo; Editing by Alasdair Pal and Stephen Coates)

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