Fire in lift engine room after safety checks begin

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

A fire broke out at the top of an elevator shaft in a Tsim Sha Tsui building yesterday morning, days after the government ordered that 1,000 lifts across the city were to be checked for safety following an accident in Tai Po.

The same company, Finland-based manufacturer Kone Elevator, is involved in both incidents.

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,' said Kone's service director, Jonny Leung. '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.

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 gotten out moments earlier after hearing a strange sound.

A check found that seven of the lift's eight suspension cables were broken, and the speed governor, lift car and counterweight were also 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. Checks were ordered on 1,000 similar lifts in housing estates.

Tsang Chi-kong, the secretary of the Hong Kong General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees, pointed to fierce competition within the industry. He was concerned that in some cases the firms responsible for maintaining lifts were not the ones that had produced and installed them.