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Notoriously stinky fruit evacuates Richmond mall

'Cultural misunderstanding' results in 911 call when customer mistakes smell of durian fruit for gas leak

An exotic fruit with a stinky reputation forced the brief evacuation of Yaohan Centre mall Monday evening.

According to Richmond Fire Rescue, the mall had to be cleared at around 5 p.m. following reports of what was initially thought to be a gas leak wafting through the 22,000-square-foot shopping centre.

Mall manager Allan Ho said a customer visiting the mall called 911 after noticing a foul smell.

Tim Wilkinson, Deputy Chief of Operations for Richmond Fire Rescue, said after fire crews arrived at the scene they scoured the building to try and locate the source of the smell which, according to Wilkinson, resembled sweaty sports socks that had been stuffed inside a gym bag for a prolonged period of time and after ruling out any gas sources finally narrowed it down to the Osaka supermarket selling fresh durian fruit in its produce department.

Native to Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia, the fruit, with its trademark spiky exterior, has a well-known reputation for its pungent smell.

While its referred as the king of fruits for its custard-like, almond-flavoured flesh, its the smell that can put many people off, even when its husk remains intact.

Apart from having an offending smell, the fruit posed no health concerns and once removed from the store, the air began to clear and shoppers were allowed to return to the mall, Wilkinson said.

In total, the building was vacated for about an hour.

Mall manager Ho said he chalked the incident up to a cultural misunderstanding since the customer calling in the 911 alert was non-Asian and likely had never smelled durian fruit before and mistook it as a gas leak.

Ho added, this is not the first time Osaka has stocked its produce section with durian fruit, but it was the first time it had raised such an alarm.

The evacuation, although brief, caused a significant disruption for the 78 stores, their staff and clients as most had to wait outside in the chilly parking lot until the all clear was given.

Ho said he was not sure if Osaka had planned to bring in more fresh durian fruit in the futureit can also be sold frozen.

I hope not, he said laughing.