Police no longer suspect arson in Fa Yuen Street fire
Police suspect an electrical fault, possibly overloading, rather than arson, caused November's deadly fire in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok.
The city's deadliest blaze in 15 years killed nine people and injured 34 others.
Government laboratory test reports are expected to be completed this week and be sent to the police by week's end.
The two most severely burned buildings, at 192 and 194 Fa Yuen Street, are expected to reopen by the Lunar New Year, police insiders said. 'At this stage, we still cannot see any evidence that suggested it was an arson,' a police officer said.
Arson was initially suspected when firemen found two rows of stalls had started burning at the same time. Surveillance cameras captured four people at the scene when the fire started. Two of them contacted police and provided information.
The officer said: 'We cannot confirm they are arsonists. They could have ignited the fire when they appeared at that time, but judging from the speed and gestures when they were walking away, they did not seem like they were fleeing after igniting a fire. They were walking slowly and seemed more like passers-by.' However, the police still list the case as suspected arson.
The officer said the stalls near the most badly burned blocks had too many electrical appliances - such as spotlights and electric fans - and they could have overloaded the power supply. But he said he found no evidence that subdivided stalls had caused the power overload.
It has taken a long time for the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department and the government laboratory to conduct tests, as there were hundreds of items taken from the scene, including burnt electrical boxes, wires and ashes, according to the officer. He said police would be more confident about establishing the cause of the blaze after getting the reports.
Another officer said contractors hired by the Home Affairs Department were renovating the blocks at 192 and 194 Fa Yuen Street, and they were expected to reopen by the Lunar New Year.
Separately, the Legislative Council's housing panel urged officials to accelerate long-term accommodation arrangements for those who lost their homes to the fire. The Social Welfare Department has contacted all 70 families in need of rehousing.