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Thursday, June 23, 2016, 21:15

Checks on industrial buildings planned

By Shadow Li in Hong Kong

Checks on industrial buildings planned
Firefighters continue on Thursday to battle a blaze in Kowloon Bay that has claimed the life of a fireman on June 23, 2016. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said on Wednesday the government will carry out stringent inspections of old industrial buildings in the wake of a serious fire in Ngau Tau Kok which killed a firefighter and injured 12 people.

The blaze raged through a mini-storage facility at an industrial building for more than a day, after starting on Tuesday morning.

Lai said current laws did not require industrial buildings built decades ago to meet today’s fire safety standards. But the government will take shortand medium term measures to improve fire safety at such buildings, as well as carrying out stringent inspections.

The fire, which started at around 11 am on Tuesday at the Amoycan Industrial Centre, has not been put out by 11 pm on Wednesday. Firefighters are continuing to hose down sides of the building as a preventive measure. As thick smoke billowed from the building, nearby residents and shoppers were forced to leave.

Lai said the government would need to consult the public and stakeholders before any amendments to current laws could be considered.

The fire also fueled concerns about mini-storage facilities, which have been increasing in Hong Kong due to a lack of space.

An earlier written reply by Lai in 2015 to an inquiry by lawmakers on the safety of mini-storage facilities showed the government has no specific legislation for regulating such facilities and no requirements about the location of storage facilities.

The government also does not know how many of these kinds of facilities exist in the city. The safety of what is being stored is only covered in an agreement between the operators and customers – which requires that no dangerous goods be stored.

Meanwhile, the safety of the building itself has also come into question after several cracks were being detected at the building’s exterior wall by officials from the Buildings Department after an inspection of the site.

Around 7 pm on Tuesday fireman Thomas Cheung Yiu-sing was reported missing by his colleague, who narrowly escaped being enveloped in the blaze himself. Ten teams equipped with breathing equipment were sent inside.

Cheung was brought out unconscious from the burning building, but died in hospital around 10 pm. He is survived by his widow and a 4-month-old baby.

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