Blaze in lift shaft comes days after checks begin

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, 12:00am

A fire broke out at the top of a lift shaft in a Tsim Sha Tsui building yesterday morning, days after the government ordered safety checks on 1,000 lifts across the city following an accident in Tai Po. The same company, Finland-based manufacturer Kone Elevator, is involved in both incidents.

And last night three members of a family were trapped in a lift on Fu Shin Estate, the same estate where a lift plunged 14 floors on October 25.

Shortly before 11am, residents of Pacific Mansion, a commercial and business building on Kimberley Road, detected a burning smell coming from one of the two lifts. A security guard called fire services officers, who discovered a fire in a room on the roof that housed the motors and cables for the lifts.

'Firemen used an extinguisher to douse the flames. No one was injured,' a government spokesman said. Police said a short circuit was the suspected cause of the blaze.

Kone, which is responsible for maintenance of the lifts, said there had been a 'misunderstanding'. 'As far as I know, there was no fire but only smoke,' service director Jonny Leung said. 'And without having to fix anything, the lift works normally.'

Officers from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department were present when their workers inspected the lift, Mr Leung said.

He said the company was checking whether the incident was caused by something else in the room. 'There are many things in the machine room, including the building's electrical cables.'

The two lifts resumed service after inspection. A spokesman for the department said it was checking when Kone last inspected the lift.

In the Fu Shin Estate incident last night, a man surnamed Lau, 33, said a lift in Shin King House had fallen for two feet shortly after he entered on the 33th floor at 8.30pm. It then came to a standstill. He said he forced open the doors after 10 minutes when no one had arrived to help so he and his two family members could get out.

Kone produced and installed the lift in Tai Po's Fu Shin Estate that plunged 14 floors on October 25. No one was in the lift car when it fell, but a woman had got out moments earlier after hearing a strange sound.

A check found seven of the lift's eight suspension cables were broken, and the speed governor, lift car and counterweight were damaged.

The company had managed the maintenance work in that case until July, when the estate owners' corporation decided to change to another maintenance provider, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Hong Kong, which offered a cheaper service.

That accident, described by the government as 'a very rare case', raised concerns over the safety of the 57,000 lifts and 7,000 escalators used across the city.