Elderly man critical after setting home ablaze ‘while trying to kill ants’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 4:48pm

A 71-year-old man is fighting for his life in hospital after accidentally setting his flat on fire in the early hours of Thursday as he tried to kill ants with burning newspaper, police said.

The man’s 33-year-old son and two neighbours at a public housing estate in Kwai Chung were treated at Princess Margaret Hospital for smoke inhalation. About 140 residents of Shek Kai House along Lei Pui Street were evacuated.

“An initial investigation showed [the man] accidentally set alight a blanket when he was trying to kill ants with a burning newspaper in his bedroom,” a police spokeswoman said. 

The fire broke out around 12.39am at the fifth-floor flat he shared with his son.

By the time firemen arrived at the scene, 120 people had already left the 38-storey building, and the firefighters led 20 others to safety.

The Fire Services Department said more than 70 firemen and paramedics were dispatched along with 11 fire engines and six ambulances.

A spokesman for the department said the elderly man’s 40-square-metre flat was badly damaged in the blaze, which firefighters put out at 1.04am.

The spokesman said that an initial investigation showed nothing suspicious.

The 71-year-old man, whose face was blackened by smoke, was given a breathing mask and brought to an ambulance in a stretcher. He was transferred from Princess Margaret to the Queen Mary Hospital, where he was in critical condition.

At 3pm on Thursday, his son and one neighbour were still receiving treatment. The other neighbour, aged 70, has been discharged.