Fa Yuen Street blaze victims remembered

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 2:51am

The blackened walls of Fa Yuen Street's blocks, charred in a deadly fire one year ago, gleam with fresh coats of white paint.

But some survivors of the fatal fire in the Mong Kok market street - which killed nine people and injured 34 - were still haunted by memories yesterday, the tragedy's anniversary.

"When I'm least expecting it, the unhappy memories float to mind now and then," said survivor Tse Cheung-kwan, 66, who was living in a subdivided flat inside one of the buildings. He shared the flat with his 25-year-old son, whose girlfriend died in the fire.

Tse, a security guard, was at work when the fire broke out. "I know all about fire safety. If I had been there, I could have told them not to leave the flat but to stay in the bathroom - which is safe because there's water."

Tse was one of 14 survivors interviewed for their stories of grief and recovery, which have been included in a book, 4.40am - Reflecting on the Fa Yuen Street Blaze. The book, written in Chinese, was released yesterday and will be available in bookstores.

The optimistic Tse, who has encouraged his son to focus on his good memories and move on, now lives in Choi Hung Estate. "Although you could say I skipped the queue for public housing, the agony of losing of a life is not worth it," he said.

The blaze broke out on November 30 at 4.40am and became the deadliest fire since the handover. It focused public attention on illegal and crowded subdivided flats. Many people could not reach safety because rear escape routes were blocked by illegal subdivisions on their floors.

A 12-month police investigation will blame the fire on a faulty connection with an electric cable used at a hawker's stall, a source said on Wednesday. The police report is expected to be released to the coroner's office next week.

To commemorate the dead, the Concerning CSSA & Low Income Alliance has set up an exhibition of newspaper clippings on Fa Yuen Street, where people can revisit the tragic events and sign condolence books.