Donald Tsang

Nine die in city blaze

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2011, 12:00am

Nine people have been killed in a fire that broke out at hawker stalls in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, and spread to a nearby residential building yesterday morning.

At least 30 others were injured. Four of them are in critical condition.

Firemen took nearly eight hours to put out the flames, which started at 4.40am. Some trapped residents fled to the roof. Four charred bodies were later found in a staircase.

A Fire Services Department spokesman said the fire was suspicious and an investigation was under way. An arson attack in December last year destroyed dozens of hawker stalls nearby.

A local resident said the building where many of the victims lived had been subdivided into cage homes.

A fire at a subdivided block of flats in Kowloon killed four people earlier this year, prompting calls from some lawmakers for a ban on cage homes. But Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen rejected the calls, acknowledging that rocketing flat prices had forced many residents to live in overcrowded buildings.

'Undoubtedly 'sub-divided units' pose risks for building safety, but they do provide accommodation for low-income people not eligible for public housing,' he said in his October policy address.

Speaking after visiting the injured at Kwong Wah Hospital yesterday, Tsang admitted that safety measures taken after the previous fire were inadequate and promised a thorough investigation and safety review.