Fire casts pall over new year for victims

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am


The Lunar New Year holiday is supposed to be a time of celebration, but for the victims of the Fa Yuen Street fire, memories of death and loss are still too fresh for festivity.

A month and a half after the fire in Mong Kok, which left nine people dead, those affected by it are only just picking up the pieces of their lives.

The celebratory mood brings sorrow for those who lost someone in the inferno. Other families displaced by the blaze spent the traditional holiday without a home.

Generous South China Morning Post readers are doing their bit to help the families look towards a brighter future. The SCMP Group has collected HK$359,985 by Friday. Families that lost a relative will receive HK$23,000, and 82 other households affected by the fire will receive HK$2,100 each. The rest will be disbursed at a later date.

'I have been thinking more and more of my daughter these days. [Emotionally] I'm still struggling,' said Mrs Yip, whose 24-year-old daughter Chen Xianxian was killed in the fire.

Yip said she had not returned to Fa Yuen Street since the fire, other than to pay her last respects to her daughter. 'I've been avoiding Mong Kok too - I can't face the place,' she said.

The government received 68 applications for public housing on compassionate grounds as a result of the fire and 41 applications have been approved. Nineteen others are being processed, while four families made alternative living arrangements and four others did not meet the requirements for public housing. The Social Welfare Department promised to help those families make suitable living arrangements.

All the affected buildings were reopened to residents, but no one wanted to move back in. All the affected families have been living in temporary housing at Shek Lei.

'No one is moving back - there's no electricity and water. We are all spending the New Year here,' former Fa Yuen Street resident Lau Kwan said. 'Of course last year's New Year celebration was a lot better. We had a home then.'

Another resident, deemed ineligible for public housing, said he had no idea where his family would go.

'This new year just brought in another load of worries for us,' he said.

The fire was the city's deadliest in 15 years and focused attention on illegal and crowded subdivided flats and control over market stalls.

Police said they believed an electrical fault, rather than arson, was the cause of the fire.


The biggest single donation, in Hong Kong dollars, made to the SCMP's fire victims fund