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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Hong Kong firefighters to act first and seek clearance later in emergencies at high-speed rail joint checkpoint

Fire services chief says city and mainland authorities have agreed on the principle and are working out relevant guidelines

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 8:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 10:22pm

Hong Kong firefighters will respond first to emergencies on trains and in the mainland port area of the local high-speed rail link terminus before getting official clearance, the city’s fire services chief pledged on Tuesday.

Daryl Li Kin-yat, director of the Fire Services Department, said it had been in discussion with mainland authorities and relevant parties over a set of operational procedures.

The talks centred on how Hong Kong rescue services should act in the event of any emergencies occurring inside an area of the West Kowloon terminus where mainland laws apply.

“The main principle is to ensure the safety of people in the area ... We have similar operational agreements [in the Shenzhen Bay Port] so we will handle the emergency operations first and communicate or get relevant clearance afterwards,” Li said during a media conference to present the department’s work for 2017.

“The working principle has been accepted by both parties. So we are now in the process of ironing out detailed procedures and guidelines,” Li said.

According to the co-location arrangement for the local terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, trains and platforms would fall under mainland jurisdiction, but the tracks would stay within local purview to facilitate maintenance and handling of emergencies.

“Notifying [the relevant authorities] can come during or after rescue operations. It depends on the emergency,” Li said.

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Overall, the number of calls received by the department involving fire cases in 2017 went down by 11 per cent to 33,934 in 2017, compared with 2016. Fires claimed 21 lives and led to 335 people injured, with 9,231 rescued.

Li also reiterated his support for a staff salary structure review, amid concerns that pay packages for fire services personnel were inferior to those of police officers.

Fire services unions had been disappointed by the lukewarm response on the matter from Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong. They later urged for a meeting on the issue.

“I expect that he will explain the actions on hand to address their concerns. In this regard, I will keep an open mind and maintain close dialogue with our staff unions and bureau to see how we can take this forward,” Li said.

He added that it was not an easy matter and urged for communication between both sides.

The civil service chief will meet the unions on Friday afternoon.