Tragedy of Mong Kok blaze relived

Mother breaks down when recalling the hours before daughter, 24, perished

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 5:46am

The mother of a young woman who died in the horrific 2011 Fa Yuen Street fire yesterday broke down in tears as she testified at an inquest into the blaze.

Wu Chun-yan told the court her late daughter, Chen Xianxian, a 24-year-old from Hainan Island, had been in Hong Kong on a two-way permit to visit her.

Chen, a saleswoman on the mainland, was staying with her mother and two of Wu's friends in a subdivided flat on the third floor of a building in Mong Kok.

She was inside the nine-storey walk-up building at 192 and 194 Fa Yuen Street when flames ripped through it early in the morning on November 30, 2011.

The blaze, which broke out at dawn in the open-air market stalls along the street, killed nine people, making it the city's deadliest fire since the handover.

When I got off work at 5am, I walked to Mong Kok Road … and saw the stalls on fire. It was a huge fire

"When I got off work at 5am, I walked to Mong Kok Road … and saw the stalls on fire. It was a huge fire … A lot of smoke and firefighters," said Wu, a waitress, in her statement. She broke down in sobs as government counsel Simon Tam Man-fai read the statement she had given to the police after the fire.

"I tried to call [my daughter], and the phone kept ringing. But no one picked it up," she said in her statement.

Wu was one of eight people giving evidence in court yesterday after losing a relative in the fire. A total of 72 witnesses, including firefighters and an electrical engineering professor, will give their testimonies during the 15-day inquest.

Cheung Chi-yin, whose older sister was killed in the blaze, told the inquest she had texted 27-year-old Cheung Chi-mei at 12.30am - hours before the fire. The late Cheung had been in Room A, on the third floor of the building, with her boyfriend, Kung Sin-shing. Kung, who survived, will testify on a later date.

The other seven who died in the blaze were Choi Wai-ming, 51, and his wife Heung Lai-ching, 32; Pang Mei-kuen, 30; Wu Jumou, 63; Pakistani Basharat Ali Syed, 33; Liu Hoi-yin, 21, and Chan Kwok-chun, 46.

Two bodies were so badly burnt that police had to rely on DNA samples to identify them.

The inquest continues today before coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu and a five-member jury.