Poor communications between police and the Fire Services meant firemen were unaware there were people trapped on the top floor of the Garley Building, the blaze inquiry heard yesterday.
Chin Ching-han from the nearby Chow Sang Sang Building, called 999 at 4.53 pm after receiving a call from a colleague trapped on the top floor, one minute after the first firefighting team arrived, the inquiry heard.
However, thinking it was a repeat report, the police did not pass the call on to the Fire Services Department's control console.
The inquiry heard earlier that Fire Services were unaware people were trapped in the Chow Sang Sang office on the top floor until 9.40 pm when a victim's husband reported her missing. The department was also unaware more than 20 people were trapped in the office until 10.58 pm. Twenty-two staff perished in the office. Forty people died in the blaze last November.
Commission counsel Benjamin Yu QC asked why so little information had been taken from Ms Chin. 'If you do not even ask, some important information may be missed,' he said.
Inquiry chief Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing said Fire Services might have learned many people were still trapped if a simple question had been asked.
He urged departments to employ better communication co-ordination.
Ambrose Ho, for the police, said the force would study the matter.
The inquiry also heard the Fire Services Department was gearing up to improve its equipment and communication systems. Senior Divisional Officer Gregory Lo Chun-hung said handheld radio equipment would be more powerful when the new Trunk Radio System came into use next month.
A new Address Transmission System providing written addresses would be installed in all stations next April. Team leaders were advised to verify addresses with their members in the meantime.