Blaze survivors grasping for answers 3 months on
Three months on, the cause of the city's deadliest fire in years is still a mystery, with the final results of the investigation not expected for months.
And for some of those affected by the blaze on Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, site of one of the city's most famous markets, the lack of progress is making it difficult to move on.
Walk down that street today and you will pass neat, newly constructed market stalls, built in line with more strictly enforced government regulations. But the blackened walls of buildings behind them are a grim reminder of the fire that killed nine people, the highest death toll from a blaze in 15 years.
The fire began at the rows of stalls lining the road early on November 30 and spread to the six blocks behind them. Flames and smoke trapped suffocating residents. More than 300 firemen battled the blaze for around eight hours while rescuing survivors.
The nine victims were found collapsed on a stairway shared by two eight-storey buildings at 192 and 194 Fa Yuen Street, where seven of the 14 flats had been subdivided. Another 34 people were injured.
'The past months felt like years for us and we want to know the truth,' said the brother of 24-year-old victim Chen Xianxian.
But Lau Kwan, who lost everything in the fire apart from her purse and a change of clothes, says life has to go on. 'I suppose it would be good to know what exactly caused the fire, but ultimately, I have to move on,' said Lau, who is still living in temporary housing at Shek Lei.
A source familiar with the investigation said police had done more than 2,000 interviews and collected several hundred pieces of evidence.
The source said three investigation reports were yet to be completed. One from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department is expected to be ready in a week. Another from the government laboratory is expected within three to six weeks, while a report is being compiled by an expert from Polytechnic University. He said a report to the coroner would take a year to prepare.
The source said the Fa Yuen Street blaze was still classified as suspected arson, but so far there was no proof of it. It could have been due to an electric fault, but the source said police had not yet reached a conclusion.
'I hope they find out what exactly caused the fire, hawker King Li Lok-wai said. He said many hawkers had rebuilt their stalls to pass stricter checks, but business had been quiet.
out of every 157 mixed-use buildings at markets in the city are potential fire hazards, the Fire Services Department has warned