Hong Kong industrial building fire sends woman to hospital, triggers school evacuation
Cause of third-alarm blaze in second-floor unit not yet established
A woman feeling unwell from smoke inhalation was sent to hospital after a blaze broke out in a Hong Kong industrial building on Thursday.
Emergency crews were called to Kai Tak Factory Building on King Fuk Street in San Po Kong, where a second-floor unit had burst into flames at about 12.15pm.
The cause of the fire has not yet been established.
At 1.45pm, the fire was upgraded to a third-alarm blaze. Fires in the city are rated on a scale of one to five according to seriousness.
A 26-year-old woman felt unwell after inhaling smoke and was taken conscious to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
By 3pm, more than 100 firefighters and paramedics had been deployed.
Police said pupils from the nearby Cognitio College (Kowloon) were evacuated.
College vice principal Wong Lai-san said that because of safety concerns, the school decided to release more than 700 pupils before 12.45pm, about two hours earlier than usual.
She said pupils were first asked to remain in their classrooms shortly after the blaze broke out.
“After learning the fire would be upgraded, we decided to release all pupils,” she said.
Because of dense smoke outside the school, Wong said pupils were given face masks before they went outside.
According to her, no pupils or teaching staff complained of feeling unwell in the incident.
Au Man-fung, 24, a manager of a restaurant next to the building, said black smoke had blown into his eatery at around noon. When he went outside to take a look, Au said he found the area shrouded in smoke.
“I couldn’t see anything but smoke,” he said. “I heard some people saying there was an explosion.”
Au said he saw pupils from Cognitio College being evacuated in an orderly fashion, adding that some passers-by hung around the area to take photos of the fire with their phones.
A section of King Fuk Street, where the college is located, was closed to vehicular traffic.
Lam Yin-fung, a pupil from Ng Wah Catholic Secondary School several blocks away, said he was in the middle of an examination when he smelled something burning around noon.
He then heard the sirens of fire trucks and saw the smoke, but Lam said the school did not evacuate pupils because it was a safe distance from the fire.
At 7.30pm, fire teams had the blaze under control, according to the Fire Services Department.
Nearly 150 firefighters and 20 paramedics were sent to the scene, a spokeswoman for the department said. Thirty-five fire engines and five ambulances were also deployed.
Authorities said there was no automatic sprinkler system in the building.
The 13-storey building, which was built in 1966, is among about 480 factory blocks built before 1973 that were not subjected to fire safety requirements, such as an automatic sprinkler system.
In August, the city’s security chief John Lee Ka-chiu said the government planned to table a draft bill in this legislative year to improve fire safety equipment in old industrial buildings. Lee made the comments after a fire at Mai Sik Industrial Building in Kwai Chung killed three people that month.
Separately, a Hongkonger facing eviction from his public housing flat was arrested for arson after starting a fire at home during a confrontation with police, firefighters and Housing Department staff on Thursday morning.
Firefighters broke through the door and doused the flames in the seventh-floor flat at Ching Chung House in Cheung Ching Estate in Tsing Yi before the 59-year-old man was subdued and arrested.
“Initial information showed the suspect felt unwell after inhaling smoke, and he was in a semi-conscious state while being taken to hospital,” a police spokesman said.
At 2pm on Thursday, the man was being treated at Princess Margaret Hospital in Lai Chi Kok.
Emergency personnel were called to the estate soon before 11am when the man became emotional and locked himself inside the flat during a dispute with Housing Department staff.
During the negotiation, he set a mattress alight. Firefighters then broke into the flat, police said.
Detectives from the Kwai Tsing police district are handling the case.
Additional reporting by Danny Mok