The Buildings Department has said that a tenement building in Hung Hom is “not in danger of immediately collapsing” after a balcony gave way in the early hours of Wednesday, scattering furniture onto the street below.

At around 2am, in the midst of an amber rainstorm signal, a balcony on the second floor suddenly collapsed, leaving the concrete floor and a bed dangling above the sidewalk. The balcony measured around 3 x 7 metres.

Views of the collapsed balcony on Wednesday morning. Photos: Apple Daily.

No one was hurt in the accident, but a man surnamed Chan who lived in the flat was sleeping on the bottom bunk of the bed, and awoke to find himself looking at the street below. “If one foot more [of the floor] fell, I’d be dead,” he told HK01 afterwards.

Police evacuated 22 people and fire services deployed the Urban Search and Rescue Team.

A senior building surveyor named Wong Kwok-ping from the department told reporters on Wednesday that the balcony’s collapse was likely due to disrepair, coupled with the heavy rain and the building’s age.

He said that the problem was limited to the balcony, and “it’s not that the building is in danger of immediately collapsing.”

The building at number 50, Gillies Avenue South was first occupied in 1956 and was under maintenance in 2011, according to RTHK. Its second, third and fifth floors were occupied, and the building contains several subdivided flats.

Surveyor Wong Kwok-ping speaking to reporters. Photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

The Buildings Department found in its inspection on Wednesday that the balconies on the first to third floors were structurally hazardous, and it was necessary to remove the first floor balcony and put temporary structures on the second and third floor balconies to support them.

The temporary structure was nearly completed on Thursday, RTHK reported.

The department said it had received complaints that the building needed repair in May, but only issued a letter to owners urging them to complete repairs, as the structure did not appear to be unsafe.

But residents said that they had noticed problems before. Chan told RTHK that he noticed cracks on a cross beam in his flat, which were later filled in by workers.

His neighbour, Ms. Fung, said objects would often fall from the building, but residents took no notice.

At a residents’ meeting on Wednesday, Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong criticised the department for its handling of residents’ complaints in May, saying that the department should not have depended on the building owner to make repairs.

She accused the department of failing to enforce the law strictly enough, leading to the accident.

“Are the Buildings Department’s safety standards restricted to whether the building will collapse?”

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.