Hong Kong douses fire that trapped 150 people on World Trade Centre roof

Firemen rescue people from the 38-storey World Trade Centre building in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on Dec 15, 2021. PHOTO: AFP
The blaze was upgraded to a level 3 incident on a scale of one to five. PHOTO: SCMP
The scene outside the World Trade Centre was calm after firefighters cordoned off the area. PHOTO: SCMP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - A fire broke out in Hong Kong’s World Trade Centre on Wednesday (Dec 15), trapping hundreds of people on its roof, and 13 people were injured before firefighters put out the blaze, police and the fire department said. 

The 39-floor World Trade Centre is home to restaurants, offices and shops in the bustling Causeway Bay commercial and shopping district. 

The fire broke out in a utility room on a lower level of the building’s mall at noon, local media said, before it spread to bamboo scaffolding cladding the exterior. 

City authorities said firefighters had battled the blaze with two high-powered hoses, using ladders and breathing apparatus in their effort to rescue those trapped. 

Police said 13 people were taken to hospital, one of them semi-conscious. 

A 60-year-old woman is fighting for her life, the Hong Kong Standard newspaper reported.

Some 770 people were evacuated from the building, including 300 people from the rooftop, it added. 

“The fire was extinguished at 4.30pm,” the fire department said. 

Earlier, shoppers and office workers streamed out of the building as smoke billowed from it and police blocked off traffic on major adjacent roads. 

About 100 people moved from a restaurant to the top 39th floor when the fire broke out and smoke filled the dining area, broadcaster RTHK quoted police as saying. 

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, but the fire services department said there were signs that it had originated from an electrical switch room. 

Many of those in the building said they did not hear any fire alarm after the blaze was discovered. 

A video posted on social media showed diners continuing with their meals and selecting food from the buffet table even as thick smoke filled the restaurant. 

The fire alarm systems on some floors of the building had been shut down because of major renovation works, the South China Morning post cited authorities as saying. 

Fire installations in the building – including auto-sprinklers, manual alarm systems and detectors – were disabled due to the construction works that were being carried out from the first to fifth floors, Mr Ng Yau-sheung, senior divisional officer from the Fire Services Department, told the newspaper. 

Firefighters use a crane to rescue people lined up on a roof after a fire broke out at the World Trade Centre in Hong Kong, China, on Dec 15, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

“One of the biggest difficulties we encountered was that the floor area of the building was large and we received multiple calls for help,” he said. “That’s why we upgraded the fire to Level Three.” 

Rescue workers evacuate people from the site after a fire broke out at the World Trade centre in Hong Kong, China, on Dec 15, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

Hong Kong ranks the severity of fire incidents in the city on a five-point system, with five being the most serious. 

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