Mong Kok blaze victims' relatives slam authorities for inaction

Relatives blame officials for not checking building's staircases and stalls' electricity boxes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 4:03am

Family members of those who died in the 2011 Mong Kok inferno have blasted government departments for their inaction.

Wu Chun-yan, the mother of deceased Chen Xianxian, and Stella Pang Ka-fung, the sister of deceased Pang Mei-kuen, made their submissions at the Coroner's Court during the inquest into the tragedy yesterday.

"I have been [in court] for three weeks [and] I find the government departments irresponsible," said Wu.

The Buildings Department had failed to inspect the front and rear staircases of the walk-up building at 192-194 Fa Yuen Street, she said.

The deadly fire, which broke out at an open-air market stall in the early hours of November 30, 2011, and spread to the adjacent building, killed nine people.

Eight of the bodies were found on the building's front staircase, which had been filled with fumes and smoke.

Some tenants could not access the rear staircase to get out of the building as some of the flats were sub-divided.

Wu, 49, said she saw few firefighters at the scene when she arrived there at about 5am that day.

She criticised them for not having taken the initiative to rescue the victims. Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu had earlier grilled the Fire Services Department's acting assistant director Li Leung-ming on why rescue work was carried out only when the firefighters heard people yelling for help or when someone was reported missing.

"If a person had been so weak that he or she could not yell for help … or if he or she had not had any neighbours … then nobody would have saved him or her," said Chan.

Wu also slammed CLP Power for failing to identify problems with the electricity boxes at the stall that caught fire.

Professor Ho Siu-lau, of Polytechnic University's electrical engineering department, had earlier said that the blaze was likely to have been caused by short circuits near the electricity boxes at the stall.

An electrician had used aluminium cables to extend CLP's copper cables when he moved the boxes from outside to inside the stall.

The relatives of the victims yesterday urged the government to prevent such catastrophes from recurring.

The coroner will direct the jury for deliberation on Monday.