Two Hong Kong boys playing with matches started a hotel blaze that killed two schoolgirls on a study tour in Beijing on Saturday, police said yesterday. Liu Wei, spokesman for the Beijing police, said the boys, surnamed Tang and Li, fled in panic after the fire broke out in room 1020 of the Catic Plaza Hotel at 10.40pm. The boys, aged 12 and 14, were in the same tour group as the girls. The fire set off an alarm and 23 minutes later hotel staff called the fire department, which sent three engines and 17 firefighters to the scene to put out the blaze, Mr Liu said. Lau Hoi-yee, 17, and Choi Tsz-yan, 12, the two Hong Kong girls who died in the fire, were in an adjacent room, which filled with smoke as they dozed. A South Korean girl, who was injured and remained in hospital yesterday, was in the opposite room. Questioned by police, the two boys said they had been playing with matches from a box provided by the hotel, Mr Liu said, adding experts had established that this was the cause of the fire. Mr Liu described the fire as 'man-made but not intentional', adding that the boys remained in Beijing and were under their parents' supervision. He did not say if the two were free to return to Hong Kong or whether they would face legal action in Beijing. The girls who died, and the two boys, were among 47 SAR students and parents staying at the hotel. The group arrived in Beijing on Saturday and had planned to return to Hong Kong on July 27. The police announcement appeared to absolve the hotel of responsibility for the tragedy, contradicting claims by Hong Kong guests that alarms did not go off. Wong Yu-keung, the tour group's guide, said last night that the two boys had been emotionally stable over the past few days. 'Li was a bit aggrieved for being questioned frequently, saying he was tired,' Mr Wong said. 'Tang was cheerful when his parent took him out of the tour on Tuesday.' The father of Lau Hoi-yee said yesterday the two families had completed the procedures for sending the girls' bodies back to Hong Kong and had been told it could be carried out 'at any time'. Kung Pak-cheung, spokesman for Henry International Travel Ltd, which organised the study tour, said each of the girls' families had received $100,000 from Man On Insurance Company in Hong Kong and a mainland insurance firm had given another $200,000 to each family yesterday.