The fire that broke out on a power cable bridge in Yuen Long on June 21 and affected around 175,000 Hong Kong households was “not caused by foul play,” a power company has said.

A cable bridge located at Long Ping was damaged by fire on Tuesday night. Photo: Supplied.

CLP Power in an investigation report released on Friday revealed that it was “highly possible” that a fluorescent tube light had been the source of blaze. Fluorescent lighting was installed below a cross beam of the bridge.

The report said the light might have overheated, causing its casing or diffuser to catch fire, subsequently igniting the nearest pilot cable and adjacent power cables. The fire was then believed to have spread to nearby cable compartments and the entire length of the bridge.

The panel that wrote the report consisted of five experts and was led by the Vice Chancellor of CLP Power Academy, Paul Poon. It was also supported by an independent fire engineering consultant.

Speaking at a press meeting on Friday afternoon, the power firm’s Managing Director Chiang Tung-keung said the government “agrees in principle” with the reasons and recommendations set out in the investigative report.

CLP Power Managing Director Chiang Tung-keung (middle), Senior Chief Corporate Development Officer Quince Chong (left), and Senior Director – Power Systems Eric Cheung (right). Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The company’s Senior Director of Power Systems Eric Cheung said the incident was not caused by any wrongdoing, overloading, the hot weather, or faults in the high-voltage cables.

“It was the fire which caused the malfunction of the cables, but not a fault in the cables that give rise to the blaze,” Cheung said.

Yearly inspections

Throughout the press meeting, representatives of the power firm repeatedly stated that the ignition of a fluorescent light was a “very rare” occurrence.

Cheung said although the lighting in question had not been replaced since the cable bridge was put in service in 1972, the company had carried out maintenance and inspections yearly on all facilities of the bridge.

He added that the light was off for the most of its life span as it would only be switched on when there were people carrying out maintenance.

CLP Power Senior Director – Power Systems Eric Cheung. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The last inspection was conducted in November and no abnormalities were found, the senior director said.

Chiang said the investigation suggested that the light in question was connected to the power supply but there was insufficient evidence to tell whether it had been left on.

When HKFP asked how the light could catch fire when it was turned off, Chiang said the fluorescent lighting was the “most likely source of ignition,” according to the investigation panel.

“Unfortunately, because the fire [was] so fierce… that night, most of the equipment inside the cable bridge [was] already damaged,” he said. “That’s why it is very very difficult to determine the status of the fluorescent light before the incident.”

Recommendations

At the moment, there are four similar cable bridges in service under the management of CLP Power.

CLP Power Managing Director Chiang Tung-keung. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The company said three of them did not have fluorescent lights, while the tubes on the remaining bridge had already been replaced.

It has also painted the cables on these bridges with fire-retardant coatings, as well as set up heat detection systems. A fire suppression system had also been installed on each of the bridges.

Moving forwards, the investigation panel advised the power firm to review and improve its management of infrastructure and its safety measures, as well as improving their abilities to control matters remotely.

‘Appreciation vouchers’

On the night in question, the power company managed to restore power to 90 per cent of the affected households in seven hours. The remaining 20,000 only got their access to electricity resumed at around 8 a.m. the next morning.

CLP Power. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

To “show care and express gratitude for the affected customers’ understanding,” CLP Power is set to give out HK$100 vouchers to all affected residential customers to spend at around 600 participating shops in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai.

The vouchers are expected to be dispatched from mid-September.

The representatives of the company did not directly answer reporters’ questions on whether compensation would be disbursed in the future.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.