Traffic was disrupted for more than six hours in Mong Kok yesterday when one of the cables holding a huge neon sign snapped, leaving it hanging precariously over Nathan Road.
The sign for the New Brilliant Karaoke Nightclub, which hung from the second floor of the Sun Hing Building, was left tilting to one side at about 2.45pm and was in danger of falling.
Policemen, firefighters and officers from the Buildings Department were called in and police closed the northbound section of Nathan Road and the fast lane of the southbound carriageway to traffic.
At one point, queues stretched along Nathan Road for about 1.5 kilometres from Mong Kok to Yau Ma Tei.
By 5.30pm the evening rush-hour led to worse congestion in the vicinity of Nathan Road, Waterloo Road and Argyle Street.
The nightclub was ordered to remove the sign by the Buildings Department in October last year, but ignored the order, prompting a warning to be issued in August.
A police officer said the incident happened when a demolition crew was building a bamboo platform near the sign.
The contractor Lau Wing-fat said: "We didn't touch it, but one of the four cables snapped." He said the sign was erected about 18 years ago.
Two cranes were brought in at about 5pm and the removal of the sign started at about 7pm. The roads reopened at about 8.45pm.
Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors spokesman Vincent Ho Kui-yip said signs should be demolished by the government if demolition orders were not complied with after three months.
He said some signs were suffering serious deterioration and officials should make enforcing their demolition a priority, particularly if they were large and hung over roads.
Ho said it normally took the department about six months to ensure an order was executed, but in extreme cases due to change of ownership, it could take two to three years.