Hundreds evacuated from major fire at Hong Kong’s World Trade Centre, with at least 13 injured and more than 100 trapped on rooftop

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  • A major fire at the World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay broke out at about 12.30pm in an electrical switch room, before spreading to scaffolding
  • More than 1,250 people, including close to 300 trapped on the rooftop, were evacuated from the building
SCMP |
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Preliminary investigation suggested the blaze broke out in an electrical switch room in the first floor of the shopping mall, before spreading to scaffolding that is covering part of the building. Photo: SCMP/ Sam Tsang

The fire alarm systems on some floors in a Hong Kong skyscraper were shut down because of major renovation works, authorities revealed in the aftermath of a blaze in the building that trapped hundreds of occupants on its rooftop, with rescuers later evacuating 770 people.

The fire at the 38-storey World Trade Centre on Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, broke out during the lunchtime rush and forced many to seek safety on the top floor.

Viral videos also showed dozens of people, including the elderly, waiting for evacuation at an open-air area on the fifth floor. According to the Information Services Department, the flames were mostly put out by 4.30pm.

Thirteen people aged 25 to 60, comprising a man and 12 women, complained of feeling unwell, with 10 of them inhaling heavy smoke and three suffering sprains. Some 40 people fled the site on their own, on top of those who were evacuated.

At an evening press conference, Ng Yau-sheung, senior divisional officer from the Fire Services Department, said: “One of the biggest difficulties we encountered was that the floor area of the building was large and we received multiple calls for help ... That’s why we upgraded the fire to level three.”

Ng added the blaze started on the first and second floors of the building, with signs it originated from an electrical switch room.

At an evening press conference, Ng Yau-sheung, senior divisional officer from the Fire Services Department, said: “One of the biggest difficulties we encountered was that the floor area of the building was large and we received multiple calls for help ... That’s why we upgraded the fire to level three.”

Ng added the blaze started on the first and second floors of the building, with signs it originated from an electrical switch room.

He said the fire installations in the building – including auto-sprinklers, manual alarm systems and detectors - were shut down due to major renovations being carried out from the first to fifth floor.

Firefighters rescuing those who were trapped in an open-air area section of the building. Photo: SCMP / Felix Wong

“If the system is under repair, it’s possible the contractor will shut down the area affected,” Ng said, adding that alarms on other floors were unaffected.

He said fire services were investigating and would follow up with the building operator.

Sun Hung Kai Properties, which owns the building, said its service centre had immediately assisted emergency teams to evacuate tenants and customers. It expressed sympathy for those who were affected.

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