Fire-fight fisherman hero feared dead

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2012, 12:00am


A missing local fisherman is feared dead after he chose to stay on board and fight a fire on his trawler moored in the harbour while his three mainland crew members leapt to safety.

Chow Kam-chuen, 60, whose clothes caught fire, was last seen jumping into the sea from the blazing vessel at the Tuen Mun typhoon shelter seconds before firefighters arrived, police said.

A search, involving divers from the Fire Services Department and six vessels from the Marine Department and marine police, was launched after Chow failed to surface.

The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre is in charge of the search for the fisherman.

Chow and the three mainland men were asleep when a washing machine burst into flames near a toilet on board the 35-metre trawler shortly after 4.30am. The boat anchored at the typhoon shelter, about 40 metres from the shore, after it returned to Hong Kong on Wednesday.

A police officer said: 'Smoke woke them up. The four fought the blaze, but failed. The three mainlanders escaped and jumped on board a nearby boat. But [Chow] refused to go and remained on board to fight the blaze.'

His clothes caught fire as he fought the blaze, and he escaped by jumping into the sea before five Fire Services Department vessels and seven fire engines arrived at 4.41am.

Before daybreak, ballooning flames were seen on board the wooden fishing boat, owned by Chow's younger brother.

Two cylinders of liquefied petroleum gas exploded aboard the vessel, while firefighters tried to douse the blaze with four water jets.

About 60 firemen took nearly four hours to put out the flames, and the trawler was badly damaged.

Before lunchtime, a marine police launch carrying Chow's relatives searched the typhoon shelter. Divers from the Fire Services Department searched out at sea, but found no trace of Chow.

Police said a short circuit was the suspected cause of the fire. An initial investigation found nothing suspicious.