Towngas can't explain gas build-up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 April, 2006, 12:00am

Probe to focus on how it travelled 30m to pool under building

Government investigators and Towngas remain no nearer to finding the reasons for Tuesday's Ngau Tau Kok gas explosion, which killed one woman and injured eight people, including a police officer.

A joint investigation team from the police, Fire Services Department and Electrical and Mechanical Services Department met for the first time yesterday morning.

The EMSD said the probe would focus on two areas: why there was unusual corrosion in an underground pipe 20 to 30 metres from Wai King Building and how the leaked gas travelled that distance and accumulated in the building.

The department's assistant director, Frank Chan Fan, admitted on RTHK's Talkabout programme he had no idea how a 7cm-diameter hole had appeared in the pipe.

'From what we understand, the normal life of such pipes should be about 50 years but the pipe involved in the incident is only 23 years old. Hence, we have cut up the pipe and are conducting scientific tests on it,' he said.

Speaking on the same programme, Towngas senior network manager Simon Ngo Siu-hing, an engineer, said they had checked that stretch of pipe a month ago and found no problems.

'This time we have not dug up that stretch only but also other pipes in nearby areas to have a look and all of them are in excellent condition. It was only that stretch which was abnormal,' he said.

Mr Ngo said there was no gas pipe under the building and he could offer no explanation on how the gas built up in the building.

Meanwhile, the daughter of 89-year-old Liu Lok-chun, who died in the explosion, demanded to know why no one entered the building to check after a security guard there had smelled the gas in the lift lobby and reported it to the 24-hour Towngas hotline at about 12.30pm, two hours before the blast.

'I don't understand why no one entered the building to check or help us. Firemen and Towngas staff only worked outside,' the woman, giving her name as Mrs Leung, said.

Fire Services Department divisional officer (Kowloon-Central) Ma Ning said it was decided not to evacuate the whole building as it was feared an explosion during evacuation could result in more casualties.

The residents of Wai King Building said yesterday they are worried whether their insurance would cover the cost of repairs.

Cheung Yeung Siu-ming, vice-president of the building's owners' corporation, said the association had a surplus of more than $1 million and third-party liability insurance of $10 million.

However, all insurance documents were lost in the explosion, she said. 'The documents were stored in an office on the ground floor but the office was wrecked,' she said. 'We have contacted the insurance company and the notaries have already inspected it. We are still not sure if our insurance is enough to cover all the costs.'

Kwun Tong district councillor Yip Hing-kwok said it would cost $2 million just to fix the lift doors.

Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping said residents could apply to the Buildings Department's emergency repair fund.

The severely damaged lobby was reopened last night to admit repair workers. The water supply was restored to the second to seventh floors at 6pm and is expected to be restored to the others today.