Police seek man for suspected arson in North Point blaze

Middle-aged manseen near building just before fire that left 25 people injured

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 1:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 3:55am

A middle-aged man who was captured by a surveillance camera is being sought by police investigating the North Point blaze that injured 25 people last month.

This came as police said on Tuesday morning that officers were treating the case as arson. The fire took place at Continental Mansion at the junction of King’s Road and Cheung Hong Street on December 29.

“After further investigation by police and fire officers, the cause of the blaze is believed to be suspicious. The case has been reclassified as arson,” a police spokesman said.

According to a government source, investigators found the spread of fire as “unusual”.

On Tuesday morning, a 33-year-old woman, who is among the 25 people injured in the blaze, remained in a critical condition in Ruttonjee Hospital.

According to police, surveillance camera footage showed a man was walking near the alley behind the building, where construction debris caught fire. Flames spread up bamboo scaffolding and mesh covers surrounding the building which was under large-scale renovation.

“He was filmed shortly before the blaze started,” a police investigator said. But he said the image was blurred.

The officer said police were investigating whether he was a suspect in the arson attack or a witness.

The man, thought to be aged between 40 and 50, is 1.68 metres tall of medium build. He was wearing a dark-coloured jacket, trousers in apricot colour and light-coloured sport shoes at the time of the incident.

Detectives from the Eastern district crime squad are investigating. So far, no one has been arrested.

Anyone with information on the incident is urged to call police on 2880-4200.

About 70 people at Continental Mansion, which house a number of guest houses, were evacuated when the two-hour fire started at about 7.30am on December 29. One of the licensed guest houses was badly damaged.

Many of the 25 injured were budget travellers staying in temporary accommodation.

The incident raised concerns about safety and standards of accommodation in local guest houses and whether guest houses should be banned from operating in private residential buildings.

Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing wrote on his blog last week that “the government has considered reviewing the ordinance regulating the guest house industry" after seeing enforcement problems with the law.