Woman rescued from Hong Kong temple furnace dies

One firefighter injured in operation in stable condition in hospital; two others discharged after treatment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 8:31pm

A woman who is believed to have intentionally thrown herself into a red-hot furnace at a Taoist temple died in hospital on Tuesday morning, Hong Kong authorities said.

The 59-year-old woman died just after 6am in Queen Mary Hospital. She had been pulled out of the 2.5-metre deep-furnace at Yuen Yuen Institute – a Taoist temple in Tsuen Wan – on Sunday morning, and was taken to hospital in a coma.

One of the three firefighters injured during the rescue operation is still in Prince of Wales Hospital, in a stable condition. He suffered second-degree burns covering seven per cent of his body, mainly on his legs.

His colleagues were treated and discharged on the same day.

Tsuen Wan police district assistant commander Chan Hoi-kong said this was believed to have been a suicide attempt.

The woman had arrived at the temple without an offering, and her brother had told police she was suffering from mental health issues, Chan said.

Leung Kwok-chu, a New Territories fire services commander, said the layer of ash in the furnace had been as thick as 1.5 metres, and the temperature inside could go up to 600 degrees Celsius.

The firefighters had stood in the ashes wearing full protective suits as they pulled the woman out, he said. “This is the first time we have seen a case like this.”

Yuen Yuen Institute is dedicated to Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, and features a replica of Beijing’s famous Temple of Heaven.

Temple-goers can burn offerings to saints and deities within the temple.

WHERE TO GET HELP

● 24-hour hotline at Suicide Prevention Services: +852 2382 0000

● 24-hour hotline at Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong: +852 2389 2222

● Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care: +852 2868 1211