Home-alone children suffer serious burns

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2007, 12:00am

Two children, left alone at home, suffered serious burns in a fire yesterday morning inside a locked flat in a building with a malfunctioning water pump.

A girl, two, is in critical condition at Prince of Wales Hospital, while her brother, three, is in serious condition.

The mother, 25, was arrested for alleged negligence. She was released on HK$3,000 bail last night but must report to police today.

The fire has raised concerns over home-alone children and why firefighters did not know about the faulty pump - which delayed the rescue of the children - although the building management said the fire services department was aware of the situation.

Sources at the scene said the mother had left her children unattended in a top-floor flat in Tseng Choi Street, Tuen Mun.

She had gone to work at a bakery in the morning before her husband, who worked on the night shift, returned home, they said.

Neighbours said the two children were often left alone at home and were known to play with fire.

Firemen believed the blaze started in a mattress in a bedroom. It became fierce within minutes and window frames and an air-conditioner fell into the street because of the heat.

Residents, some still in their pyjamas, were evacuated from the building. The fire was put out after about half an hour.

Au Ka-choi, the Fire Services Department's New Territories West divisional commander, said the boy was screaming for help behind a door when firemen arrived. They also found the water pump was not working. 'The three-year-old boy was shaking the locked door, crying for help,' he said. 'After we broke into the flat and saved the boy, we found another two-year-old child lying in the centre of the flat.'

The building's management company, Golden Dragon, blamed the blaze on the children's curiosity.

'It is not the first time. Last time, we were lucky to put out the fire quickly,' said Poon Pak-wan, a director of the company.

In a previous incident, the children and their father had an escape at home in January after an unattended water pot with plastic utensils inside caught fire.