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News / Nation & World

Hong Kong probes cause of blaze in shopping district

By KANIS LEUNG, Associated Press
Published: March 3, 2023, 7:30am

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong authorities on Friday were investigating the cause of a huge blaze that broke out overnight at a construction site in a popular shopping district and forced 170 people in nearby buildings to evacuate.

No deaths or injuries have been reported after the fire erupted at the Mariners’ Club redevelopment project in the densely populated Tsim Sha Tsui district at about 11 p.m. Thursday. Multiple floors of the structure — including scaffolding — were on fire, and burning debris floated in the air.

The Empire Group’s redevelopment plan was to build a 42-story architectural landmark to house the historic Mariners’ Club and a new hotel, the firm’s website said.

The fire was largely extinguished by 8:30 a.m., deputy chief fire officer Keung Sai-ming said. Firefighters had battled the blaze for around nine hours.

When firefighters arrived at the scene Thursday night, flames were seen on multiple floors of the building but only temporary firefighting equipment was available, Keung said.

“The building is still under construction, so firefighting equipment commonly found in other buildings is not ready for use yet,” he said. “We needed a large number of people to supply water to the very high floors to fight the fire, so we faced many challenges.”

The construction materials there, including wooden boards and metal bars, also made it difficult for fire crews to move around, he added.

The site is surrounded by a shopping center, several hotels and some residential and commercial buildings. Earlier in the night, crowds of onlookers gathered on the street to watch the operation that involved 250 firefighters and paramedics.

“Yesterday night was quite windy. The burning debris was blown towards five buildings by our count,” Keung said. “Two of the buildings, namely a hotel and a commercial building, saw part of their balconies catch on fire. Fortunately, our officers on standby quickly extinguished them.”

As dawn broke, the fire was less serious than it had been hours earlier, although flames could still be seen on multiple floors. The structure’s exterior walls were blackened and parts of its scaffolding appeared shaky.

People staying in three buildings close to the scene had to be evacuated, police said.

One person who stayed in a nearby building was startled and felt sick, and was later sent to a hospital, authorities said. Another resident also felt sick near the scene and went to the hospital, they added.

Tsim Sha Tsui is a tourist and shopping area in Kowloon, and is famous for its skyscrapers and an iconic view of the city’s Victoria Harbor.

This story has been updated to reflect that balconies of two buildings were caught on fire, not rooftops.