Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong man, 79, in critical condition after Mid-Autumn Festival lantern sparks blaze in flat

Victim suffers hand injuries and smoke inhalation while his wife, 80, sustains burns to right arm and leg

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 1:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 1:25pm

An elderly Hong Kong man was fighting for his life while his wife received treatment for burns after a lantern burst into flames while they were celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival at home in the early hours of Tuesday.

The blaze spread through their 15th-floor flat in the 40-year-old Hiu Wah Building on Hiu Kwong Street in Sau Mau Ping soon after 1am.

“Initial information showed a lantern caught fire in the unit, and the couple were injured while battling the blaze,” a spokesman said.

Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene after a neighbour in the 31-storey building called police at 1.07am.

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The couple had extinguished the flames by the time firefighters arrived, the police spokesman said.

The 79-year-old man suffered from hand injuries and smoke inhalation while his wife, 80, sustained burns to her right arm and leg. They were conscious as they were carried away on stretchers and taken to an ambulance.

A government spokeswoman said the man was in critical condition and his wife was in stable condition. Police said no evacuation of the building was needed and investigations found nothing suspicious.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calender, is the second-most important Chinese holiday after the Lunar New Year. Families and friends typically gather for meals, followed by moon-gazing at beaches or parks with candles and lanterns over mooncakes and tea.

On Tuesday, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) reminded members of the public to avoid littering or burning wax, putting lit candles on the ground or grass pitches, throwing glow sticks or other objects onto trees, or flying sky lanterns while celebrating the festival.

Chinese legends, lanterns and mooncake mountains

“People littering at LCSD venues are liable to a penalty of HK$1,500 (US$192), while the maximum penalty for burning wax, throwing objects onto trees or flying sky lanterns is a fine of HK$2,000 and 14 days’ imprisonment,” it said.

Separately, fire engines and an ambulance were sent to the headquarters of the Customs and Excise Department on Java Road, North Point at 6.26am on Tuesday when a printer burst into flames in one of the offices.

Firefighters doused the fire, and no casualties were reported. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances, and firefighters were investigating.