The fire involving a car in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel last month should have been detected earlier and firefighting procedures were not complied with, the Government told legislators yesterday. A Transport Department inquiry, based on a report from the tunnel operator, found that tunnel staff had arrived at the fire within three minutes instead of the two minutes specified in the management contract. The May 29 blaze forced 500 drivers and passengers to flee their vehicles and caused huge traffic jams on both sides of the harbour. Acting Secretary for Transport Kevin Ho Chu-ming, in a written reply to legislators, said the tunnel operator had generally handled the fire in an effective manner and within established procedures but there was room for improvement. 'It took two minutes for staff at the control room to detect the fire. The fire should have been detected more quickly,' he said. Mr Ho said the two rescue staff who arrived at the scene first had not complied with standard procedures. They did not wear smoke masks; a fire extinguisher instead of a fire hose was used to control the fire; one employee left the scene to help with evacuation but should have stayed to work as part of a team; and, lastly, both members of the staff should have stayed at the scene until fire officers arrived. Mr Ho said failure to follow procedures could have put staff at risk. The tunnel operator had been asked to improve staff training in fire emergencies and improve communication and evacuation of passengers, especially of buses. The department said it would soon organise a fire drill in the tunnel with the Fire Services Department, the police and the bus operators. The television monitoring system, built some 28 years ago, needed upgrading, it added.