A recent graduate of Baptist University (HKBU) told Young Post that throwing flour at each other during parties had been common for a while, but he did not know when the tradition first started.
“Birthday celebrations happen every month. Some residents might buy flour outside the campus and play with it to create a more exciting atmosphere,” said Pang, who did not wish to disclose his full name. He was a resident at HKBU’s Y. P. Cai Hall two years ago, on the floor on which the accident happened.
Twelve students were injured in a fire at Y. P. Cai Hall at about 1am last Thursday. About 20 students were at a birthday party in a room there. While the candles on the cake were still lit, someone threw flour in the air, which led to an explosion.
Eight female and four male students, aged 18 to 23, went to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Kwong Wah Hospitals for injuries to their faces, necks, hands and legs.
The Fire Services Department did not answer when we phoned them, but T. K. Tam, a retired fire officer, and the ex-chairman of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (Fire Division), told Young Post that all fine particles in the air could lead to a dust explosion.
“Even corn powder, flour, dust, and sawdust, when exposed to a certain amount of air and heat, are susceptible to combustion,” Tam said, meaning they might explode.
“To prevent such accidents from happening, people should pay attention to the ventilation in enclosed environments. Also, try to avoid direct contact between those particles and heat sources, such as candles.”
Tam added that in cases of dust explosions, people should immediately shield themselves from the flames, behind furniture or with a blanket. But if their clothes catch fire, they should roll on the floor to put it out.
However, he said it is important to be aware that there might be dirt on the floor that could cause an infection, especially if the person is wounded.