Hong Kong MTR

MTR to form investigation panel on Tsim Sha Tsui station firebombing as girl, 15, battles burns

Station returns to normal operations after attack during Friday evening peak hours but commuters still rattled

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 11:59am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 7:57am

The condition of a 15-year-old girl whose legs suffered burns during the shocking firebombing of a peak hour MTR train at Tsim Sha Tsui on Friday is no longer critical as of noon on Saturday.

The incident, which injured at least 18 people that night, also prompted the MTR Corporation to form an investigation panel to study how the blaze was handled and possible improvement measures.

Transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who visited Tsim Sha Tsui station at around 11.30am on Saturday, said the government would require the company to have a thorough review of its current safety and emergency measures.

Fears still lingered in the minds of MTR commuters as they passed the busy station, they told The Post, which on Friday was a chaotic scene with commuters trying to extinguish flames on other passengers.

Four people were in a critical condition and two others deemed to be in a serious state among at least 18 injured. Nine of them had been discharged as of noon.

Audrey Ko, a Form Four student of St Paul’s Co-educational College, and the youngest victim in the case who was earlier in critical care, is now in a serious condition after doctors said she suffered second degree burns.

Meanwhile, the conditions of two other victims turned from serious to critical. The two are a 32-year-old woman surnamed Lai in Kwong Wah Hospital, and a 27-year-old woman surnamed Lam in Princess Margaret Hospital.

A 38-year-old woman being treated at Princess Margaret Hospital, understood to be visiting from Taiwan, remained in critical care. The 60-year-old suspect, who had murmured “burn you to death” on the packed train before he lit a bottle and hurled it at passengers, according to a police source, is also still in a critical condition at Prince of Wales Hospital. It is understood that his situation is not life-threatening.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said the suspect had a history of mental illness and that recently his situation had been relatively stable. But he was due to undergo a check-up and had missed a recent medical appointment.

Medics had tried to contact the man after the no-show but they could not reach him, Dr Ko said on Saturday morning.

He said he was concerned about the situation of the people who were still in the hospital, most of whom were suffering from smoke inhalation.

A police source said the man lived in Chai Wan with his wife and son.

Initial investigations showed that the move was likely to be prompted by his personal and family problems, and officers have already spoke to his family.

“The investigation is ongoing,” said a police spokesman on Saturday morning.

The Tsim Sha Tsui station, which reopened on Saturday morning, appeared to be running normally.

Around two to three MTR employees in yellow and black jackets were on the platform, but no extra security forces were seen. The atmosphere at the station appeared calm.

During his visit to the station, transport minister Cheung met employees who were on duty during the accident including the driver of the train on fire and platform officers.

“The government is highly concerned about the incident...we would expect a detailed report from MTR to the government,” he said after meeting MTR officials.

Cheung said balance is key when asked about enforcing extra security checks at stations.

“Every measure of risk management must strike a balance between risk [reduction] and its impact on operational efficiency.

“As there are many passengers in MTR every day, it is not that easy to set up security checks,” he said, noting that there are more than five million passengers riding the MTR daily.

MTR operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing expected an initial report of the incident to be submitted around a month later. “Directions will include a review of the nature of the incident, ways of handling [the situation] and whether communications with the public were effective,” Lau said.

He admitted that CCTV cameras were not installed on the train involved, and said new batches of CCTV-equipped trains would arrive and be ready for service in 2018 at the earliest.

Yeung Sing-Kei, a passenger who travelled from Fortress Hill to Tsim Sha Tsui stations on Saturday morning, said he was not worried about safety when taking the MTR, but would now be more cautious.

“The police and firemen quickly handled the situation. But now I would be looking around more ... I used to play with my phone when taking the train,” Yeung said.

Rosa Cheung, a 25-year-old who worked in a Tsim Sha Tsui hotel, described the accident on Friday night as “horrifying”.

She recalled she could not get into the MTR station at around 7.15pm last night, and had to take a bus home.

“I do worry a bit. Will this kind of accident happen again?”Cheung said.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns over the incident.

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council’s transport panel, said the MTR should consider installing more CCTV cameras on the train to help staff monitor the situation.

Another lawmaker, James To Kun-sun, urged the public to pay more care to people with mental health issues in society, and that passengers should pay more attention to their surroundings when they are travelling.