Reported 'Gas Leak' Emergency Turns Out to Be Stench of Strong-Smelling Fruit

On Friday, firefighters in the Australian capital of Canberra responded to reports of a smelly gas leak. However, when authorities discovered the odor's true source, they found something far less harmful: a pungent-smelling durian fruit.

Beloved in its native home of Southeast Asia, durian has been nicknamed "the king of fruits," reported The Spruce Eats. Featuring a creamy, custardy interior and spiky outer shell, durian is used in a range of sweet and savory applications, both raw and cooked. Its notoriously strong aroma, however, is divisive: the fruit has even been banned from public places and mass transit in some cities due to its intense smell, particularly when ripe.

Though the smell of durian varies according to one's personal taste, the fruit's reputation suggests that many—particularly Westerners—find the scent unpleasant. In fact, it's often "described as resembling dirty gym socks, rotten egg, cut onions, manure, and roadkill," said The Spruce Eats.

It is somewhat understandable, then, how the smell of durian could be mistaken for the distinctly sulphuric stench of a gas leak.

Durian Fruit
A durian fruit in Australia's capital city caused a panic after being mistaken for a gas leak. Durian fruits displayed at a roadside shop, 2015. MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

According to The Straits Times, the Friday incident saw first responders rushing to investigate the feared gas leak at a store within a small shopping precinct. Meanwhile, they advised the public to stay clear of the area.

After a substantial search, firefighters had still not found evidence of a gas leak. Instead, they found the true culprit—the signature scent of a durian fruit.

Canberra's emergency services confirmed the discovery in a statement, per The Straits Times: "After an hour on scene, the owner of a tenancy above the shops advised of the potential source of the incident."

"It was not a gas leak, but in fact a durian fruit," they explained. "The fruit gives off a very pungent smell and can waft some distance."

The ordeal on Friday is the most recent example of what is actually a relatively common mistake. In 2018, also in Australia, a total of 600 students and teachers were forced to evacuate their university after an unpleasant smell prompted fears of a gas leak. The odor, however, came from a rotting durian fruit that had been forgotten in a cupboard.

Last year, CNN reported a similar incident in which a German post office was evacuated due to a mysteriously smelly package. Twelve postal workers received medical treatment, and six were taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure. The package, containing four Thai durians, was eventually delivered to its intended recipient.