Firefighters save 70 trapped in block

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2011, 12:00am


About 70 residents were rescued by firefighters after being trapped in a public housing block in Pok Fu Lam when a fourth-floor flat was engulfed in flames yesterday, injuring nine people.

Three men and five women, all residents, suffered burns or smoke inhalation, while a fireman had minor hand injuries. One of those injured was a tenant of the fourth-floor flat in Wah Kin House on the Wah Fu Estate where the fire broke out at about 4.30am.

The 70-year-old woman suffered burns to her upper body after she fled the flames then ran back inside to save some belongings.

Five people remained in Queen Mary Hospital in stable condition. The others were discharged after treatment.

A burning mosquito repellent coil that ignited waste cardboard stacked in the flat was the suspected cause of the blaze, Fire Services Department Western divisional commander Tse Ping-ho said.

'The tenant [of the burnt-out flat] told us that a mosquito coil was set alight before she went to bed,' he said.

Tse said the flat was well alight when firemen arrived and many residents were trapped and called police for help.

'Residents were unable to run out of their flats because there was intense heat in the corridor, which filled with thick smoke. They went to the kitchens and yelled for help,' he said. 'More manpower was needed in order to rescue and evacuate residents in a short period.'

Twenty-four fire engines and six ambulances were put into action and more than 120 firemen were deployed as the fire was upgraded to a third-alarm blaze at 4.56am. Fires are rated on a scale of one to five according to their seriousness.

Firefighters used extension ladders to rescue about 15 residents trapped in fourth-floor flats. They were taken to the block's third-floor platform.

Another four teams of firemen equipped with breathing apparatus went upstairs to rescue other residents.

A tenant from the burning flat, Chong Mei-ching, who escaped with her husband, was found outside the apartment suffering from burns she suffered when she raced back inside. Firefighters used two water jets to fight the flames, which were put out at 5.52am.

A large number of items were found stored in the 344 square foot flat, which was seriously damaged.

'Inside the flat, there is a narrow path and two sides of the path were packed with piles of waste cardboard and plastic bags,' Tse said.

'Our colleagues took about an hour to remove all the items to ensure that no one was trapped inside.'

Meanwhile, more than 200 residents were evacuated from a Jubilee Garden block in Sha Tin when a 30th-floor flat burst into flames at noon. No one was in the flat at the time.

The fire was extinguished after about two hours, with a 45-year-old man treated at Prince of Wales Hospital for smoke inhalation.