Stalls' storage lofts helped feed fire

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am

A fire raged for 14 hours at a market in Tseung Kwan O on Friday because so much material had been accumulated in concealed storage spaces fixed to the ceilings of stalls, the Fire Services Department said yesterday.

This added to the problems caused by the automatic sprinklers being turned off for renovation work. About 40 shops in the Hau Tak Estate Shopping Centre were destroyed.

The department is to review fire safety procedures since there is no rule requiring premises to have back-up sprinklers installed.

Lo Chun-hung, deputy director of fire services, said: 'We've found there were many concealed lofts in the stalls with stuff accumulated which could have spread the fire.'

He said the department's officers were patrolling other markets to check stalls for concealed storage spaces.

'We will discuss with the industry and study how to improve building designs,' he said.

Hau Tak market was closed yesterday as workers tried to clean up the scene.

Vendors have already held meetings with The Link Management, the owner of the shopping centre, and insurance companies to seek compensation. They said the fire would not have lasted so long or caused such severe damage if the sprinkler system had been turned on. Store operators were worried their businesses would be seriously affected.

The Link said earlier that Majorluck, the management contractor of Hau Tak market, notified the Fire Services Department on March 11 about the shutdown of the sprinkler system. The water supply was cut off on the same day.

'The Link should hold most responsibility,' a vendor surnamed Wong told Cable TV.

'If the sprinkler system had been on, the fire would have been less widespread and caused less damage.'

In a written statement yesterday, The Link did not address the issue of the sprinkler system but said it would waive rent for affected vendors during the closure and refund a month's deposit.

'We expect the supply of electricity will be fully restored on Sunday and the air-conditioning system on Monday,' a Link spokesman said.

The blaze broke out in a shop selling joss sticks and paper offerings on the ground floor of the three-storey shopping centre. It took firefighters more than 12 hours to bring the blaze under control.