Residents of blaze-hit Hong Kong building say aftermath ‘exhausting’, fear lack of security once cordon lifted

Wong, who works in the air-conditioning industry, said he had barely slept because he had to work overnight on Friday. He had also arranged for his lock to be repaired on Saturday morning. Many locks were broken during the rescue operation.

“It is very exhausting. It is physically and mentally taxing,” Wong said.

Buddhists pray for the victims killed in the fire at New Lucky House. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

He said his home was entirely covered in ash, but he did not have time to do cleaning due to his work schedule.

The blaze broke out shortly before 8am on Wednesday, when many of the building’s 300 tenants were still asleep.

Following the emergency operation, the building has remained cordoned off and residents have had to queue up to register to return to their flats while escorted by police. Some residents said this process could take hours.
Police are helping to coordinate between residents and volunteers at the site. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Wong said he preferred that his wife and children stay at their relative’s place for the time being due to security concerns. He was worried about the security of the building, which he said was already bad before the fire, with strangers coming and going.

Police said on Saturday two lift circuit boards worth HK$200,000 (US$25,520) were stolen from New Lucky House, adding that it was conducting an investigation.

Abdoh Rhattab, a 51-year-old delivery man living on the 16th floor, had also returned to his flat. He said that it was tiring climbing up the stairs as often as three times a day.

He said he was also worried about security after the cordon was lifted, adding that before the fire, he often saw gangs sitting and smoking on the rooftop.

“We don’t have security,” he said. “They have cameras all over the roof, but there is nobody [monitoring].”

9,578 buildings have not complied with Hong Kong fire safety orders

Tam Yuk-ha, a 60-year-old retiree living on the 10th floor, said she had to scrub the floor, doors and the hallway outside the flat as it was covered with ashes and smelled like burned plastic.

She said she had skipped her shower on Thursday as there was still no water, but decided to stay to keep an eye on her valuables.

A source earlier told the Post that the source of the fire could be a discarded cigarette butt, and the fire erupted when piles of plastic rubbish bags burst into flames at the bottom of a lightwell.

Yau Ma Tei district councillor Benny Yeung Tsz-hei said electricity had yet to resume for the first to third floors and the repair of the lifts was still ongoing.

The lights in public areas were also off, and the community care team had provided them with some battery-powered lights, he said.

He said more than 20 elderly people who lived on the higher floors were unable to walk up the stairs, and free hotel rooms had been offered to them.

Cigarette butt may have caused fire that killed 5 in Hong Kong building

Homeowners were also concerned they had to cover the repair expenses if the insurance coverage was not sufficient, he added.

The HK-Asean Foundation, an NGO, said it would donate HK$50,000 (US$6,380) to the two families of an Indonesian couple who were killed in the fire.

The Indonesian consulate general confirmed to the Post that the two worked in the hospitality industry at The Ritz-Carlton.

“The consulate general and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia are working to facilitate the return of the victims’ bodies to Indonesia, as well as the fulfilment of any of their outstanding rights,” its spokesman said.

Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak Mei-kuen said more than 200 volunteers from all 20 community care teams in Yau Tsim Mong district had offered help to the residents and tourists staying at guest houses in the building.

She said the teams noted information of a pair of French tourists and would send their luggage to France as they were not able to retrieve it.


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