Man still living in blaze building
Maggie Tam and Joyce Ng
A tenant is still living in his subdivided cubicle in a Ma Tau Wai building that was swept by a fatal fire in June, although his landlord is racing against time to demolish the illegal structures.
The tenant, Cheng, is the only remaining resident among the 39 subdivided flats in the 54-year-old building on Ma Tau Wai Road, a week after a Buildings Department deadline for demolition of the partitions.
Former neighbour Geung Ming-lung said other residents in the subdivided homes had moved out because the department had ordered the owners to restore the flats to their original state before August 30.
Cheng's flat, located on the sixth floor, was still filled with furniture including a sofa and television yesterday, and the floor was covered with newspapers and dirt.
A renovation worker, who was mending holes on structural walls inside, said Cheng still lived there but was at work.
Geung said Cheng had been offered temporary accommodation on the Shek Lei Estate in Kwai Chung but wanted to remain in the tenement block to save travel time and money as he worked in nearby To Kwa Wan. It is unclear how long he can stay on, since the owner has to pull down the partitions between his flat and two neighbouring rooms.
Geung has moved to a public rental flat on the Chuk Yuen South Estate, Wong Tai Sin, arranged for him after the fire, and is happy with paying less rent.
The tenement, at 111-113 Ma Tau Wai Road, was the scene of a blaze on June 15 that claimed the lives of a pregnant woman, her two young sons and an 18-year-old girl.
Engineers blamed the illegal partitions, which had blocked fire exit doors and narrowed the escape route, for the tragedy.
Buildings officers found 12 of the 14 flats in the tenement had been subdivided into 39 units. They issued removal orders to the owners of the subdivided flats to knock down the partitions.
They warned of a closure order to evacuate all residents when they found that only two of the 12 problem flats had been restored to the original state, but dropped the plan when the owners started demolition work within a few days.
Those who fail to meet the August 30 deadline face a maximum penalty of HK$200,000 and a year in prison.