Market stalls hit ahead of holidays
Amy Nip, Jennifer Ngo and Simpson Cheung
Twenty-six market stalls were affected by yesterday's fire, with many who had stocked up for the holiday season losing everything.
However, most stall owners say their losses are small compared with the loss of life in a fire that claimed the lives of nine, injured 34 and affected 160 households.
'[The stalls] are our only assets, so some of us lost everything in terms of money. But this is nothing compared to losing a life - I don't feel right about talking about money when so many people died,' said one stall owner, who only gave her name as Ng. She has been selling goods in the area for more than 20 years, and said the community was quite united, with stall operators and residents all getting along.
Many stall operators have been selling goods in Fa Yuen Street for decades. After a fire last year that destroyed 80 stalls and brought losses of HK$20 million to stall owners, Ng said there had been more stringent control and more frequent patrols on the street.
Wong Pui-ching, chairman of the Fa Yuen Street Hawker Association, said 12 stalls were destroyed, while many others suffered damaged. However, it was too early to say how much the hawkers had lost in total.
'It will take at least HK$40,000 to rebuild a stall. It'll be more expensive this year compared to last year because of inflation,' said Wong.
One stall operator, who sells towels, said she had just bought a large shipment for the coming holiday season. The total loss had yet to be calculated, but she said it could easily amount to more than HK$70,000.
Another operator, who sells undergarments, said she had just put in new shelves, but was told that her stall was completely burned and that nothing was left.
'Many hawkers had stocked up recently as the Observatory said two days ago that temperatures would go down. They have stocked up on winter clothing, thick blankets and bed covers,' said Brenda Cheng So-ngor, chairwoman of the Federation of Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Hawker Association.
'Many of them stored part of the stock in their stalls. So they suffered several tens of thousands of dollars in losses,' Although she could not estimate the loss to her members, Cheng said it would not be as severe as that suffered in last year's fire because fewer booths had been affected this time.
Various charities and organisations have given donations to victims of yesterday's fire, with more than HK$4.8 million already collected . The money will be distributed through the Social Welfare Department.