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Saturday, June 25, 2016, 00:53

CE urges people to support firefighters

By Li Yinze and Luis Liu
CE urges people to support firefighters

Firefighters keep fighting the fire for the fourth day at a mini-storage facility at an industrial building in Ngau Tau Kok on Friday. The fire was brought under control by Friday night. (Parker Zheng/China Daily)

HONG KONG — Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appealed to Hong Kong people on Friday to support and have confidence in Fire Services Department staff battling a lethal fire – which has been raging for more than three days in an industrial building in Ngau Tau Kok.

Saying he is proud of the city’s firemen, Leung thanked them for their dedication and sacrifices while protecting people’s lives and property.

His comments follow public skepticism over decisions and strategies taken during the fire-fighting operation which resulted in the death of two firefighters.

He paid tribute and signed his name in the condolence book at Kwun Tong Fire Station, where people were paying their respects to the two dead firefighters.

Talking to reporters afterwards, Leung said he understood people had been concerned to see firemen entering the dangerous fire scene and becoming injured or killed. But he is confident in the Fire Services Department’s professionalism in handling the blaze and urged the public to support their efforts.

Leung stressed that the fire scene has posed considerable risk and uncertainty, making it difficult for firefighters despite the equipment and training they received.

Letting the industrial building burn down without sending firemen inside to control the blaze, as some suggested, was not a solution, as the burning building is near two residential buildings. The fire could spread to them if it was not stopped, Leung explained.

Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR Zhang Xiaoming also went to the Kwun Tong Fire Station to express his condolences.

Hailing the two firemen as "true heroes" who made the ultimate sacrifice, Zhang pledged full support from Beijing. "If the SAR needs any assistance, the central government will spare no effort in offering help," Zhang said.

Fire Services Officers Association executive committee member Mak Kam-fai said morale among firemen remained high. But those on the frontline faced huge pressure from the challenges of dealing with the blaze, and also from the public.

It is irresponsible for people and some so-called experts to spread criticism of the Fire Services Department, as they have absolutely no idea what the real situation is like, Mak, also a senior divisional officer from the New Territories and Kowloon East Fire Protection Regional Office, told a press conference.

The fourth-alarm fire was finally put under control at 7:38 pm on Friday, some 80 hours after it broke out on June 21.

There is now less smoke and the temperature has dropped in some areas, said acting fire services assistant director Kong Ping-lam. Buildings Department officers and commanders are at the scene around-the clock to monitor the situation, Kong said.

Other officials and dignitaries, including Commissioner of Police Steven Lo Wai-chung, Secretary for the Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching and the Chief Executive’s wife, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, also went to the Kwun Tong Fire Station and paid their respects.

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