Survivors desperate to move out

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 June, 2011, 12:00am


Survivors haunted by the fatal blaze in a Ma Tau Wai tenement block on Wednesday called on the government to resettle them in public housing, as an electrical fault in a ground-floor shop was singled out as the likely cause.

A man who lost his wife, two children and an unborn baby in the fire was still fighting for his life in hospital, unaware that his family died in the fire at 111 Ma Tau Wai Road, in which a teenager also died and 19 people were injured.

One 30-year-old resident said she did not want to move back into the block even if she could.

'I cannot afford to move anywhere else. Public housing would be a dream,' she said at the nearby Holy Carpenter Church community centre, where some displaced residents have been housed. A man in his sixties said his wife was in an emotionally unstable state and wanted to quit their third-floor flat. 'She hopes the government will give us a home,' he told social workers.

Visiting the centre yesterday, Social Welfare Director Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said: 'We will follow up on the immediate, short-term and long-term needs of survivors, and try our best to accommodate their needs.'

Huang Yan-huan, her two sons aged one and six, and 18-year-old Tse Yan-yee were killed in the fire.

Last night, Huang's 55-year-old husband, Lai Hok-man, remained in critical condition in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Yau Ma Tei, while Tse's father, 44, and sister, four, were in a stable condition in Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin. The other injured people had been discharged after treatment.

'He is conscious and can recognise us but he can't speak or open his eyes wide,' said Chan Kin-chung, a former workmate who was among 10 people who visited Lai yesterday. 'Mr Lai doesn't know about his wife's situation yet. We haven't told him, and he couldn't ask.'

Police said an electrical fault in a photographic studio on the ground floor of the eight-storey building was the likely cause of the fire.

'Up to now, investigations have found nothing to indicate foul play,' a police officer said.

The wiring in the building had been poorly maintained.

Blackened bottles and tins from the shop's storeroom were taken to a government laboratory for examination.

The police officer said it was possible that the tins contained paint.

The Fire Services Department said it was still investigating whether there were fire hazards such as locked emergency exits and obstructed escape routes, but it had not received any complaints before the fire. Survivors have complained that their way to the roof had been blocked by a locked door.

The two tenement buildings at 111 and 113 Ma Tau Wai Road, which share front and rear staircases, remained closed yesterday.

The Social Welfare Department said charitable organisations and donors had given HK$15,000 to each affected family and more than HK$100,000 to the families of the dead.