Flames from a massive fire in a Hong Kong commercial district that firefighters spent the night battling reached five nearby buildings, including a luxury hotel, authorities have said.
Authorities received reports of the blaze at a construction site in Tsim Sha Tsui at 11:11 p.m. on Thursday, the Fire Services Department said. By the time firefighters arrived at the scene five minutes later, the blaze had spread to a number of floors and the wind was blowing the flames toward neighbouring structures.
Among the five buildings affected, the rooftops of two – a hotel and a commercial building – caught fire, Keung Sai-ming, a deputy chief fire officer, told reporters during a press conference on Friday morning.
“The outdoor furniture on the rooftops were set ablaze,” Keung said. “The fires [there] were extinguished after around 20 minutes.”
Local media outlets identified the hotel as the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers.
The blaze broke out at a construction project on Middle Road, where a hotel is being built. Keung said the project was 48 stories high. Around 250 firefighters and 66 fire engines were deployed to the scene.
The cause of the fire – a category four blaze, the second-most severe on the fire department’s scale – is still being investigated, Keung said.
Police said no injuries were reported, although two people were admitted to hospital after being frightened by the fire.
Firefighting efforts hindered
Firefighters took around nine hours to extinguish the blaze, with the fire department saying it was “largely put out” at 8:30 a.m. Roads in the vicinity remained blocked off on Friday morning, with some Tsim Sha Tsui and East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exits shut.
Keung said the firefighters’ efforts were hampered by the fact that the building was under construction, so its fire safety equipment was not in use yet.
“We needed to mobilise a lot of people to transport… heavy-duty pumps to the higher floors,” he said.
Construction materials on the site such as wooden planks and metal rods “significantly obstructed” firefighters’ progress.
“Lastly, the fire happened at [close] to midnight, so it was dark. We had to bring lots of lighting equipment to extinguish the fire,” Keung added.
Around 170 people in nearby buildings, including Chungking Mansions and Star Mansion, were evacuated during the night, divisional commander of the Tsim Sha Tsui division Ng Chui-ting said.
A community centre in Yau Ma Tei was opened to shelter evacuees.
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