They were among hundreds of people who were trapped in the Causeway Bay skyscraper on Wednesday afternoon, after a blaze started near the meter room on the first and second floors of the building.
A total of 13 people were taken to hospital, with the majority of them suffering from smoke inhalation.
The high-rise, which houses a shopping mall, restaurants and offices, reopened on Thursday – but only to people who work there.
A man surnamed Lo told RTHK that there was still a pungent smell in his office.
“My office is on the 15th floor. There’s a smell here [in the lobby] and it is quite strong in my office. It hasn’t faded yet,” he said.
“I found out this morning that we couldn’t make calls or go online, but everything else was okay.”
Lo said the management office didn’t notify the tenants soon enough after the fire broke out, and nor did the alarm go off immediately.
Structural engineer Ngai Hok-yan said renovation work in the building’s lower floors might be to blame.
“The fire happened in the switch room on the first floor or the second floor, so in this case, maybe they had already turned off the heat detector or smoke detector in the switch room, otherwise the alarm should be on [in higher floors],” he told RTHK.
Fire safety consultant Leung Kam-tak, meanwhile, said automatic fire alarms might not go off if they are too far from the source of the blaze, and manual ones would only sound if someone broke the glass attached to them.
The Fire Services Department said at a media briefing on Wednesday that a contractor responsible for renovating the lower floors of the building had informed them that the fire safety system had to be turned off, but the department would have sent inspectors in to see if contingency measures needed to be taken.
Leung said if fire safety installations have to be switched off during renovation work, authorities usually advise the building’s landlord to install temporary equipment such as fire extinguishers and smoke sensors.