HONG KONG • A Taiwanese tourist was among three people in critical condition yesterday after a rush-hour arson attack on a Hong Kong subway train the previous night, officials said, with one man with a history of mental illness arrested for the crime.
A total of 18 people were injured in the incident which occurred at 7.15pm on Friday.
The police said they had seized suspected liquid accelerants from the scene. They have ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack and said the man acted alone, with investigators looking into his mental state.
The city's No. 2 official Matthew Cheung told reporters: "We visited a female tourist from Taiwan. Her condition is still considered critical and she is in intensive care.
"To our knowledge, she has a friend in Hong Kong and that friend has notified her family. They are on their way to the city," Mr Cheung, the Chief Secretary, said.
Health Secretary Ko Wing Man said the three in critical condition were on breathing apparatus.
Mr Ko said the suspect had a history of mental illness. "In the long term, his condition was stable. But, recently, he was supposed to have received treatment but he missed it," he told reporters.
Video footage showed chaos on the platform of the packed Tsim Sha Tsui station, with a train carriage on fire and one man lying on the floor with his clothes ablaze as bystanders tried to help him.
Images broadcast on Cable TV news showed many with burns, as emergency personnel carried out rescue operations.
"I heard loud cries, and the smell of the fumes didn't smell like a normal fire - it had a chemical smell," an eyewitness identified as Mr Chow told reporters at the scene.
The police said they had arrested a 60-year-old man surnamed Cheung for arson. Reports said the suspect was not on good terms with his family and had previously been arrested for minor crimes such as gambling.
The South China Morning Post had earlier reported that the man had tried to light a Molotov cocktail and said "burn you to death" before he took out the bottle.
Cable TV reported he had said loudly that some people had harmed his son and he needed to take revenge, and that he had doused his trousers with thinner.
Local media said the suspect was among those in critical condition but the police would not confirm the reports.