Cause of fatal fire still unclear: police

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am


The cause of last month's fatal fire in Mong Kok remains unclear after more than two weeks of investigations but cigarette butts have been ruled out, police say yesterday.

Anna Tsang Yim-sheung, deputy district commander of Mong Kok, said police were unable to confirm whether the blaze that killed nine people and injured 34 others on November 30 was an accident or arson until it get reports from the government laboratory on the evidence, including electricity boxes.

Meanwhile, the two buildings hit hardest by the fire on Fa Yuen Street - Nos192-194 and Nos196-198 - remain closed to public access.

However, dozens of residents were allowed to enter yesterday to gather their valuables.

The Buildings Department said the two closed-off buildings were structurally safe, but their electrical circuits had been seriously damaged in the fire - the city's deadliest in 15 years.

Residents will likely not be allowed to return until Lunar New Year at the earliest.

A less badly affected tenement, Nos188-190, was reopened yesterday for residents to return, and a temple inside it was back in operation.

Some 20 affected households have qualified for compassionate rehousing after an initial assessment, according to the Social Welfare Department.

A Fire Services Department spokesman reiterated the earlier finding that stalls on both sides of the road had burst 'simultaneously into flames', but he provided no further details.

The owner of a ground-floor shop selling curtain cloth, which was engulfed in the fire, showed reporters a bag of coins that had melted together. 'I took them from my cash register,' said the owner, who declined to be named. A woman from the same shop, who called herself Ms Kwong, said they had lost 'tens of millions' of dollars.

Most residents yesterday chose not to speak to the media, saying officials had told them not to do so.