30 boats damaged in Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter fire

September 29, 2015 15:29
Chan's family escape on a speedboat with their pets  (inset) after a fire broke out at the Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter  Sunday. Photos: RTHK, internet

A fire that broke out Sunday at the Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter damaged nearly 30 vessels, at least 10 of which have sunk, resulting in losses in the millions of Hong Kong dollars, Ming Pao Daily reported Tuesday.

Hong Kong Off-shore Fishermen's Association chairman Lai Tai-hei hit out at the Fire Services Department (FSD) for its slow response.

He said the firefighters who arrived six minutes after the blaze was reported were not marine firefighters.

Lai said a fire boat finally arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the fire broke out.

He said the blaze escalated fiercely during the 30 minutes and that the losses could have been minimized had the fire boat got there earlier.

Lai called for the FSD to set up a marine fire station at the typhoon shelter.

An FSD representative said the No. 8 fire boat from North Point Fire Station was on duty in other waters, so the No. 1 fire boat at Central was ordered to proceed to Shau Kei Wan.

That fire boat took 26 minutes to arrive at the typhoon shelter.

The FSD said it reviews its resource allocation and operational strategies on a regular basis.

Boat owner Lai Foon-sing said he has lost about HK$2 million, as five of his boats were damaged in the fire.

Lai said the person who cut loose the shrimp boat that first caught fire, allowing it to drift off and set other boats on fire, was selfish and lacked common sense.

If the shrimp boat had been kept at its own berth, it could have just burned down and sunk, while other boats nearby would not have been affected, he said.

Police have reportedly arrested an illegal immigrant believed to be linked to the fire.

Meanwhile, another boat owner, surnamed Chan, was praised by his wife for being selfless and heroic during the incident.

Chan, who lives with his family on their 55-foot boat, took his family and eight house pets onshore on a speed boat when the fire broke out just 200 meters from their boat.

He returned to the typhoon shelter and then steered away a luxury yacht a friend of his had asked him to look after.

However, his own boat caught fire and sank shortly afterward.

Chan and his family are now homeless and have to stay at a relative’s place for the time being.

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