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Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong fire attack brings back memories of 2004 rush-hour MTR explosion

On January 5, 2004, 14 people were injured and 1,200 evacuated at Admiralty station when an elderly man started a fire on a packed train

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 9:02am

It has been 13 years since Hong Kong commuters experienced the kind of terror seen in Friday’s arson attack. On January 5, 2004, 14 people were injured and 1,200 evacuated at Admiralty station when an elderly man started a fire on a packed train.

Unlike Friday’s case, in 2004 the arsonist fled the scene leaving behind five bottles of paint thinner and five 250 gram cylinders of liquefied petroleum gas. He was later caught and sentenced to life in prison.

According to news reports from that time, the arsonist started the blaze aboard the first compartment of the Tsuen Wan line train as it crossed from Tsim Sha Tsui to Admiralty at 9.12am. He used newspapers, a lighter and a bottle of mineral turpentine, causing an explosion. It was considered the first such attack in the railway’s 25-year history.

“Panicked passengers fled through the train, some in tears and others barefoot, having left shoes, bags and clothes in the blackened compartment,” a piece by the South China Morning Post described.

Fourteen people, aged between two and 54, were injured, but all were released from hospital after treatment on the same day, according to news reports.

The trial of a 68-year-old man in relation to the case started in November of 2005.

In January 2006, the Court of First Instance found Yim Kam-chung guilty.

He was jailed for life in what is believed to be the harshest sentence ever handed down by a Hong Kong court for arson.

Accused MTR arsonist says he wanted to be a media star

But the judged noted, at the time, there was a need for society to take better care of elderly people living alone, such as Yim, whose isolation may have prompted him to “think radically” and could have been a factor in his motive for the attack.

The last news reports related to the case came in September 2006, when Yim’s appeal against both his conviction and life sentence was dismissed.