Fire in Hong Kong skyscraper traps hundreds of people before dramatic rescue
Firefighters on Wednesday rescued hundreds of people who fled to the rooftop of a Hong Kong skyscraper and became trapped there after a major fire broke out. Hours later, the fire service said the blaze had been extinguished.
In addition to those on the roof, dozens of people jammed into narrow areas in an open-air area on the tower’s fifth floor, peering over the edge as they awaited rescue. Firefighters used an extendable ladder to reach them.
In all, firefighters brought 770 people out of the building, said Ng Yau Sheung, the Hong Kong Fire Services Department’s senior divisional officer. Another 40 people left on their own, he added.
At least 13 people were sent to hospital for treatment, according to authorities. Three of them suffered injuries while 10 others suffered from smoke inhalation.
The fire started in the early afternoon at the World Trade Center on Gloucester Road in the city’s popular Causeway Bay shopping district, according to a government notice. The 38-story tower houses both offices and a mall.
Dense smoke was seen billowing from the building, and photos and videos from those trapped inside showed poor visibility as smoke filled the building’s restaurants and stairways.
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Authorities said that the fire spread from the building’s bottom two floors, which is occupied by a mall undergoing extensive renovations. The fire was under control by about 3 p.m. and was largely put out by 4:30 p.m.
The fire services system had been shut off in the mall area, said Ng Yau Sheung, the Hong Kong Fire Services Department’s senior divisional officer.
“If the system is under repair, it’s possible that the contractor will shut down the area affected,” he said during a news conference Wednesday evening.
Authorities said they were still looking into whether fire safety regulations had been breached.
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Earlier, police told local media that about 300 people evacuated to the top of the building while waiting to be rescued.
Preliminary investigations by the police suggested that the fire broke out in the electrical switch room on the first floor of the shopping mall before spreading to the scaffolding that surrounded part of the building, according to the South China Morning Post.
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