Amid winter storm Elpis, 9 kids suffer CO poisoning from coal burnt to heat homes

Three of the children arrive at Soroka Hospital unconscious, but doctors manage to stabilize them; 3 people have died in apparent similar circumstances this winter

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative: Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, December 23, 2013. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, December 23, 2013. (Flash90)

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba said Friday morning that nine children suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills used to heat up their homes were brought to the hospital overnight.

Three of the children were unconscious, the hospital said. Doctors managed to stabilize them and they were later transferred to the Shamir Medical Center near Tel Aviv for further treatment.

It was not immediately clear how many separate incidents of CO poisoning were recorded Thursday night, or where the victims lived.

“In the last two weeks amid the cold weather, we have seen a large number of children with carbon monoxide poisoning due to the use of coal for heating,” Dr. Michal Maimon, director of the children’s ER at Soroka said.

The gas has no color or smell, so leaks can be hard to identify until symptoms of poisoning become evident. Medical experts say charcoal should only be used in a well-ventilated outdoor space, as even a single grill’s worth of burning charcoal can emit toxic levels of carbon monoxide.

On Thursday, a 44-year old man from the northern town of Reineh died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning, after heating up his home with coals. He was not immediately named.

Medics are seen at the scene of a deadly carbon monoxide poisoning incident in the northern town of Jadeidi-Makr, January 22, 2022. (Magen David Adom)

In southern Tel Aviv, a 33-year-old mother, her 11-year-old daughter and her 3-year-old son were moderately hurt on Thursday under similar circumstances.

Last week, 40-year-old Abu Hassan al-Housri, and his wife, 35-year-old Ataaf al-Housri, were found dead in the northern Arab town of Jadeidi-Makr after they neglected to put out a grill used to warm up their bedroom when they went to sleep Friday night.

The couple’s young children noticed they had not gotten out of bed by the afternoon and alerted relatives who called first responders.

“Every winter we encounter many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of heating using fire inside homes, also as a result of installing non-standard water heaters,” Maimon said.

Temperatures dropped below freezing in many areas around the country during the past week, amid the Elpis winter storm, according to the Israeli Meteorological Service.

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