Don't leave us without a home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2011, 12:00am


A plan to close down subdivided flats in blaze-hit Fa Yuen Street has left tenants fearing the move will leave them homeless.

Their anxiety is shared by residents in other areas that are also targets of possible enforcement.

The Buildings Department will soon issue removal orders to owners of blocks in the Mong Kok street.

The action follows a department finding that half of the 14 flats in the buildings numbered 192-194, where nine people died in last Wednesday's fire, had been subdivided into tiny dwellings.

Officials said last week that a six-month crackdown would cover 334 blocks in five old districts of the city that had subdivided units and were located in busy market streets.

Miss Lai, a single mother, fears she will be among those who are soon to lose their homes.

A tenant in a subdivided flat at 131 Fa Yuen Street with her nine-year-old daughter, Lai pays HK$1,800 out of her HK$6,000 government welfare payments for the 60 sq ft unit.

'I'm at my wits' end - I'm scared to death that a fire will happen again, but I'm also scared that I'll be thrown out with no place to live,' she said.

'I agree that safety should come first, but if these [subdivided flats] are to go, I hope [the government] also has a plan for those of us who are going to be displaced.'

She is on the waiting list for public housing. Other neighbourhoods also pose fire risks with their subdivided flats and market stalls.

In North Point's Marble Road, stalls are connected to a row of six old, dilapidated tenements.

These buildings have only a single stairway and most of them are obstructed with rubbish, electrical appliances and old furniture.

In one block, the way to the roof is blocked.

At least four of the units are subdivided into three, four or five cubicles. Some are rented to Southeast Asian women waiting to start work as domestic helpers.

Four other flats are vacant and have been bought by Richfield Realty, which specialises in buying old properties and selling them on to developers.

Annaliza Geroche, a Filipino, arrived in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and is staying in a subdivided flat rented by her friend.

Geroche said she was unaware of the recent debate about fire risks. In another flat, 15 Indonesians are sharing space. They said they had no idea what they would do if the stalls below caught fire.

Mr Mok, a stall owner and resident in Marble Road, said many people had been moving in and out of the subdivided units in his building, often leaving rubbish and furniture in the only stairway.

'I'm often worried there will be a fire. A cigarette end could burn it all,' he said.

Last night, seven of the 34 people injured in the deadly Mong Kok fire remained in hospital, four in a critical condition.

Police said yesterday they had identified the last of the nine victims killed in the blaze - a 33-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker named Syde Bashrat Ali.

Police are looking for three men seen on surveillance videos walking near the site before the blaze broke out on Wednesday. Anyone with information on the fire is urged to call police on 9022 0072.


The number of blocks targeted by the Buildings Department in its crackdown on subdivided units in five of the city's older districts


Many of the families who lost loved ones in the Fa Yuen Street fire were poor. Many of those injured will struggle to pay for their rehabilitation. The smoke has yet to clear on the extent of the personal devastation. The SCMP Heart of Hong Kong Relief Fund is appealing for donations to help those affected. Please give generously to bring help to the fire victims.

Donation methods

- By cheque payable to 'SCMP Charities Ltd'. Please write 'Mong Kok fire' on the back of the cheque.

- By direct transfer: HSBC 502-676588-001. Please add a transfer note of 'Mong Kok fire'.