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Friday, July 15, 2016, 22:01

Government vows to ensure greater fire safety

By Li Yinze

HONG KONG - To prevent future fires in Hong Kong, the government says it is committed to taking tough enforcement action against breaches of lease conditions by lot owners in industrial buildings.

This comes in the wake of the deadly blaze at a mini-storage facility that claimed two firemen's lives last month.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the targets of the Lands Department’s first action will be six industrial buildings.

The facilities and services of these buildings have encouraged the public to use them for a variety of purposes. This includes learning centers, places for religious gatherings, shops and restaurants. However, dangerous goods are stored at other premises inside.

Most of the industrial buildings across the city are licensed only for industrial use or warehouse purposes, Chan noted. Modification of their usage may breach the lease conditions unless the owner has received formal approval to convert the building’s functions.

As these buildings pose severe fire hazards, the government says it will tackle the problem. It intends to take short- to medium-term measures proactively to ensure fire safety compliance, Chan said.

He vowed to impose harsher penalties on those who breach land lease conditions in such buildings.

"Starting from Aug 29, authorities will issue a warning letter to the lot owners in question, requiring them to make rectifications within two weeks.

"Failure in rectifying the breach would lead to further enforcement action,” Chan warned.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok appealed to the public for understanding. He said he realized the action might cause inconvenience to the operators of mini-storage facilities and their customers.

"It is necessary to take such measures to enhance the fire safety of the industrial buildings in the city,” he stressed.

The government will take prompt action in proposing amendments to relevant fire services ordinances in the next legislative term, he added.

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