VICTIMS of the arson attack who beat the odds and survive will almost certainly spend the rest of their lives with brain damage, doctors said yesterday. Dr Kay Chiu-san, chief executive of Kwong Wah Hospital where victims were being kept alive on ventilators, said: ''When the brain is deprived of oxygen for more than five minutes, as happened here, brain damage is likely to result. ''At this stage it is a matter of life or death rather than what their condition will be if they survive, but if they do live they will probably be brain damaged.'' Dr Kay declined to put a percentage on the victims' chance of survival, but described it as ''not at all good''. All four victims who reached Kwong Wah Hospital alive were unconscious and had to be resuscitated after suffering heart attacks. None of them was burned, and as with most fires it was the inhalation of smoke which caused the damage. Dr Kay said: ''Even though the fire seems to have been fairly small, there was a lot of smoke and these people would have instinctively dropped to their knees to try to avoid the rising fumes. ''But they would have been unable to get enough oxygen to avoid damage, while their state of panic would have made it even more difficult for them to breathe properly.'' Bank staff admitted to the Caritas Medical Centre in Shamshuipo were being treated in the intensive care unit, the hospital's senior medical officer Dr Doris Tse Man-wah said. ''We have been applying ventilator support to the patients to keep them breathing . . .'' she said. According to Dr Tse, all victims' hearts were beating, but their brains had stopped functioning. Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, who was at the Kwong Wah Hospital to lay the foundation stone for a new outpatient block yesterday afternoon, took the opportunity to visit the victims. Three hospital teams were put on alert during yesterday's attack as the Hospital Authority swung its disaster contingency plan into action. Caritas Medical Centre, the hospital closest to the scene, received the first seven victims. Kwong Wah Hospital was the second closest and took the next six rescued from the bank. Queen Elizabeth Hospital was put on standby to receive any further casualties but was not required. A spokesman for the Hospital Authority said: ''The idea of sending the second batch of casualties to Kwong Wah Hospital was to spread the load among the hospitals nearest to the scene.'' The spokesman said that all 12 of the territories acute hospitals were equipped to deal with such an emergency. ''These hospitals all have accident and emergency departments and intensive care units which are well able to cope a situation in which patients need emergency treatment,'' the spokesman added. CASUALTY LIST DEAD: Chiu Lo-mui, female, 33; Kan Yip Yuk-fong, female, 45; Lui Sau-chu, female, 26; Tsang Liu Pui-kei, female, 26. INJURED: Mui Yin-yee, female, 32; Au Wai-ming, female, 30; Hui Yui-kwong, male, 38; Lee Shuk-yee, female, 33; Hung Ming-see, female, 43; Yu Wing-ching, female, 35; Yu Tsui-mei, female, 40; Ha Ming-on, male, 20; and Lee Chi-wan, male, 55.