Timing of hydrant failure critical

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 4:38am

A discrepancy over when a hydrant system stopped functioning raised further questions over why it took so long to extinguish a blaze last week in Ap Lei Chau.

Firefighters spent three hours putting out the fire that left seven injured on the 17th floor of Hiu Lai Court in South Horizons on Thursday. They said the building's hydrant system had insufficient water pressure to supply water to the floor. They had to pump water up from the ground.

Samuel Tong Yiu-wing, service director of Johnson Controls Hong Kong, the contractor for maintaining South Horizons' fire system, told Southern District Council's special meeting yesterday: "In the initial 30 to 40 minutes, the whole fire system was working normally."

Tong said there was a short circuit in the fire alarm system on the 17th floor because of the heat of the blaze and that cut power to the panel which controlled the whole system - leading to the fault in the water hydrant.

South Horizons Management senior maintenance manager Jonathan Lee Man-kwong said the fire alarm had been triggered at 6.19am and residents had seen water coming down the escalator shaft before the system failed.

But assistant fire services director Jones Yeung Chung-hau said firefighters found there was not enough water pressure two to three minutes after they tried to get water from the hydrant system - immediately after they arrived on the scene.

Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, district councillor for South Horizons West, urged the Fire Services Department to clarify the time discrepancy. "The 30 minutes is very critical," he said. "What happened in these 30 minutes?" He said possibilities included the fact firefighters were late in entering the building, the system had been misused or it really was out of order.