The pipe of the gas boiler outside the apartment in which five students died from suspected gas poisoning. Photo: Li Hao/GT
After 10 people have died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning since Monday, city authorities said that although they have been trying to raise awareness of the risks of unsafe gas boilers, it is difficult to eradicate the danger, especially from rented homes.
Five college students died in a rented apartment in Chaoyang district Monday morning. The five male victims, Li Guangyao, Guo Peipei, He Miao, Lu Chenyu and Liu Yutao were students from Harbin Medical University.
They and their classmate Dong Bo were interns working at the rehabilitation and physiotherapy department of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Yinghua Dongjie, Chaoyang district.
Dong was out Sunday night, and when he returned to his home in the Yinghuayuan residential compound, he discovered his roommates had no signs of life, the Beijing News reported.
Two of the five were transferred to the China-Japan hospital and three to Chaoyang Hospital immediately, according to doctors from both hospitals.
Xie Yuxiao, department director of rehabilitation and physiotherapy told the Global Times her colleagues tried every means to save the students.
"The rescue lasted from Monday morning to the afternoon, but we just could not save them," Xie said.
Mei Xue, vice director of the emergency department of Chaoyang Hospital, said the students were dead on arrival at the hospital.
A notice issued by the local residential committee on January 11 was posted at the entrance to the apartment, block, warning several cases of gas poisoning had been reported in the compound.
"All the cases were caused by a type of boiler which emits exhaust gas in the room," the notice reads, suggesting residents should contact the local property office to install exhaust fans which would vent the gas out. The residential committee refused to comment.
It is still not clear whether the type of boiler in the victims' home is the dangerous type which was warned of by the residential committee, as the police investigation is ongoing.
But Mei said although the autopsy results have not come out, he can say with 80 percent certainty the victims died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
"Because there was no trauma. And carbon monoxide poisoning will cause coma quietly just like that," said Mei.
"To prevent such poisoning, first, people should use a safe water boiler, and the boiler shouldn't be in the same room as the shower," Mei said.
On Tuesday, five people from one family were killed in a gas poisoning case in Shibalidian township, Chaoyang district. According to Wang Xin, media officer from the Beijing Public Order Corps, this was due to a carbon monoxide emissions from a boiler.
"Though a carbon monoxide detector was installed in their boiler room, it was not plugged in," a press release Wang provided says. The victims were discovered at 10:50 am Tuesday morning, and were pronounced dead on the scene when paramedics arrived. The deceased included two men, two women and a 7-year-old boy.
"People should buy a carbon monoxide detector and always remember to plug it in," the press release says.
Carbon monoxide detectors are available on online shopping sites priced around 100 yuan ($16).
China banned the production and sales of gas boilers which emit exhaust gas inside rooms in 1999, but they are still being used in many homes, said Wang Qingwen, media officer of the Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment.
"We have publicized the risks of this type of boiler each year, but similar gas poisoning cases are still reported every winter. Residents should be aware this type of boiler is dangerous and change them. Tenants shouldn't rent apartments if they find these dangerous heaters installed," said Wang.
Statistics from the municipal government's official website show by the end of 2011, this type of gas boiler is still being used in some 17,000 houses.
There have been at least 11 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in Beijing this winter, according to local media reports. In 2011, 38 people died in 26 cases, the municipal government website shows.
If a tenant dies, landlords must pay a fine of 10 times the monthly rent, and could be charged with a crime, Beijing police said in 2006, according to the Beijing Times in November 2012.