Date
20 October 2017
Firefighters had to use aerial ladders to put out the fire at the Amoycan Industrial Center on Ngau Tau Kok Road in Kowloon Bay on Tuesday; SC Storage facility where the blaze started. Photos: Xinhua, Google Maps
Firefighters had to use aerial ladders to put out the fire at the Amoycan Industrial Center on Ngau Tau Kok Road in Kowloon Bay on Tuesday; SC Storage facility where the blaze started. Photos: Xinhua, Google Maps

Deadly Kowloon Bay fire exposes industrial building risks

A fourth-alarm blaze that killed a firefighter in an industrial building in Kowloon Bay has raised questions about the safety of hundreds of similar structures that house mini storage facilities in the city, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

One of the firefighters at the scene, Cheung Yiu-sing, 30, was found unconscious by colleagues and rushed to United Christian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from smoke inhalation.

The fire broke out around 11 a.m. Tuesday on the third floor of Amoycan Industrial Center on Ngau Tau Kok Road.

The unit was being rented by SC Storage, a provider of low-cost self storage facilities with a variety of sizes.

As the blaze got bigger, firefighters raised the third alarm at 12:14 p.m. and the fourth at 7:46 p.m.

The fire was contained later in the night with 45 firefighting trucks, two aerial ladder trucks and about 200 firemen dispatched to the scene.

Cheung, the lone fatality, was a senior fire station officer who graduated from the University of Hong Kong. He left behind a wife and a four-month-old baby.

Five other firefighters were injured.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying later arrived at the hospital to visit the injured and express condolences over the officer’s death. He pledged the government will assist Cheung’s family.

He was accompanied Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok, Secretary for the Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching, and Director of Fire Services Lai Man-hin.

According to the Fire Services Department, the blaze got so big because highly inflammable materials might have been stored in the mini storage facility, which housed around 200 storage units. 

The lack of sprinkler systems in the old industrial building also contributed to the spread of the fire while the narrow passageways made it difficult for the firemen to reach the facility and put out the blaze.

It was also learned that the mini storage units are not covered by insurance, although SC Storage promised to compensate the affected renters.

Lam Chun-man, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, said many of the industrial buildings in the city are old and not equipped with smoke sensors and sprinkler systems, making them quite unsafe in case of fire.

Lam suggested that sprinkler systems be installed in all industrial buildings and mini storage providers should demand that renters divulge the items they store in their units.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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