Now darkness haunts Chungking Mansions
TENSION and temperatures were soaring throughout the infamous Chungking Mansions last night, after a power failure left the buildings' 5,000 residents struggling in pungent darkness and with a shortage of running water.
Scores of residents gathered at dusk to protest to management and the Yau Tsim District Office, saying they feared disease, looting and sex attacks in the buildings' rambling stairwells.
But police, who had swarmed through the same corridors only 48 hours before in search of overstayers and shady characters, were nowhere to be seen late last night.
Tsim Sha Tsui police said they had not received any reports of crime in the building.
''We are staring at potential disaster,'' said Yau Tsim District Board member Shabbir Shah.
''The place is hot and smelly normally, now we fear for the young and the old the conditions are getting so bad.'' ''The water is not running properly and women are fearing for their safety, everyone is united, Indians and Pakistanis, Nigerians and Nepalese, on this issue.'' Power started to fail early yesterday and by last night all five 17-storey blocks, containing scores of restaurants and more than 200 guesthouses, were out.
A China Light and Power spokesman said engineers had inspected the circuits and discovered a burnt fuse box, which was not the company's responsibility.
They said the problem was for the owners, of which there are believed to be dozens.
Filipina traveller Myrna Taroma, 22, was waiting on the first floor before midnight for a friend to help her up the stairs.
''In this place, anything could happen to me by the time I reach the 11th floor - no light, no water, no fans - but the guesthouse still charges me $100 a day,'' she said.
The corridors on the 11th floor of Block D were eerily quiet as robed Indian and Nigerian men groped their way along in the dark and groups of young men stood around, some smoking marijuana.
A man inside the management office, driving an air conditioner with his own generator, said he had been under constant threat from angry residents.
''People are angry and I know there is a crisis. We don't know why this has happened, but we hope to have it fixed in three days.
''Our main concern is arranging temporary repairs.'' Huddling with his family in a flat on the 14th floor of the vice-ridden Block D, Nadir Saddiqui said he feared for the lives of the more than 1,000 young children thought to be in the building, with fresh milk supplies hard to locate.
''It's too scary to go anywhere, but you've got to go miles to find a candle,'' said Mr Nadir, who runs a travel agency on the first floor, now closed with the other shops.
''With everyone burning the ones they've got, we've got the fire risk to think about too,'' he said.
The Nathan Road building, soon to face stiff new guesthouse regulations, has long been considered a firetrap.
Fears of widespread illegal immigration racketeering led police and immigration officials to stage a massive dawn raid this week, in which more than 4,000 people were subjected to passport checks. Police started hammering on their doors at 5 am.
However, only 41 of the 103 people detained at the time, are still being held.