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Chef injured in restaurant gas blast tells of trauma and fears for future

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Firefighters at the scene of the gas explosion in the Clay Oven restaurant

Firefighters at the scene of the gas explosion in the Clay Oven restaurant

Firefighters at the scene of the gas explosion in the Clay Oven restaurant

A chef fears he won't be able to return to a kitchen after being injured in a gas explosion in a Belfast Indian restaurant.

Arafat Khan (31) was working at the Clay Oven in Ballyhackamore when the blast occurred.

The business had only opened two days previously.

He remains in the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he is being treated for severe burns to his right arm, which have left him in excruciating pain.

The restaurant was wrecked in the gas explosion, which happened at around 4pm last Wednesday.

A country-bound section of the Upper Newtownards Road, from the Sandown Road junction to Earlswood Road, remained closed for several days as a result and traffic was diverted away from the area.

The restaurant, which is closed for the forseeable future, employed seven staff.

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As he recovers from what he described as his "terrifying experience", Mr Khan told the Irish News he now has trouble sleeping and is experiencing flashbacks.

He said: "I lit the fire and just turned my back and there was a flash.

"I fell and tried to get up. There was gas in my face, eyes and my throat was burning. I just thought: 'I need to save myself'.

I got out of the kitchen and was just running, terrified, because I never faced anything like this before.

"I was fortunate that the exit was clear. I was just running for my life.

"It was really scary - I can't explain it."

Staff at a nearby shop gave Mr Khan first aid while they waited for the arrival of the emergency services.

The chef of more than 10 years will discover in the coming days if he requires a skin graft.

He said: "This is how I make my living and I don't think that I can go near fire or the kitchen again.

"I don't get much sleep. Every time I close my eyes it all comes to me.

"My wife and my family are so upset.

"I never had this kind of terrifying experience.

"I have not looked at any of the pictures of the building; it's too much, I can't think about it."

In a statement on its Facebook page, Clay Oven management said: "As per precautionary measures, the restaurant is now closed until further notice.

"We apologise for the inconvenience caused."

Many local businesses took to social media following the explosion pledging their support to the owner and hoping that he will be able to reopen as soon as possible.

In response, the owner said: "Thanks a million for all the kind words.

"We are so grateful to have a community like this.

"We are still staying strong and looking forward to reopen to serve our lovely customers."

Belfast City Council has confirmed that its health and safety unit is investigating the circumstances surrounding last week's gas explosion.


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