A fire which broke out early yesterday at a market in Wong Tai Sin blazed for seven hours and forced the evacuation of about 700 people.
Eight people aged between 13 and 85 suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The fire started at a dry products store on the first floor of Tai Shing Street Market.
Dense smoke soon filled the whole street and spread throughout the building, and several explosions were heard.
People living in the five blocks of Kai Tak Garden above the street market were evacuated. Firefighters rescued one woman from the first floor.
Those evacuated, many of them elderly, had to wait in a nearby park or on a flyover until it was safe to return to their homes.
The fire broke out at about 4am and was not brought under control until 9am. It was finally put out two hours later.
About 140 firefighters, including members of four search and rescue teams, tackled the blaze.
Kowloon Central divisional commander Chan Man-kwong said it took a long time to extinguish the blaze because the site covered about 7,500 square metres. "The area was large and the store gates were shut, so we had to blow them open to put out the fire," he said.
He said officers were still investigating the cause of the blaze and it was too early to say whether there were any suspicious circumstances.
Some residents complained the fire alarms in the blocks were barely audible.
"The sound of fire alarm was so weak, I thought it was just some people trapped in a lift," said one woman.
Another said: "We did not hear the fire alarm. The whole block filled with smoke … nobody told us anything and we had to make our own way to safety."
Chan said the reason residents barely heard the alarms was because only those in the market went off. The fire alarm system in the housing blocks was separate and did not go off.