Stinky Durian Mistaken for Gas Leak, Prompts Library Evacuation

An Australian university called in the authorities to extinguish a rotting fruit.

By Ethan L. Johns
April 30, 2018

Image: Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

Gas leaks can have explosive consequences. Literally. So the least you can do is evacuate the premises when you think you smell one. Yet sometimes when you think you smell gas it is something very different indeed.

Students and staff at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology were forced to evacuate a campus library on Saturday after the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire brigade received reports of a potentially dangerous odor. Once inside, the authorities discovered the culprit: a rotting durian fruit.

Durian, a spiky tree fruit about the size of a football, is infamous for its polarizing smell. Like a ripe cheese, it can smell pretty terrible while tasting pretty great—depending on who you talk to. Food personality Anthony Bourdain likes the fruit, yet once said of its after effects, that “your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”

So imagine the durian—a fruit so stinky that it’s banned on public transportation in Singapore—trapped in a cabinet in Australia, rotting away for who knows how long. What's more, the fruit’s odor was amplified by the building’s air conditioning system, according to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

Once the problem was identified, it was handed over to the Environmental Protection Authority for removal and discarding.

While a gas leak would have been no laughing matter, the fire officials managed to find humor in the false alarm. Documenting the incident, the brigade released a statement with the title, “Rotten afternoon on campus.”

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns