Hundreds rescued from World Trade Centre fire

Firefighters on Wednesday rescued hundreds of people from a fire in the World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay, with some of those trapped for hours in the building plucked to safety from a rooftop.

Thirteen people were taken to hospital, a majority of them suffering from smoke inhalation.

Officials said the fire was largely put out at 4.30pm – almost four hours after it was first reported.

Police said the fire forced the evacuation of 1,269 people from the building.

In a media briefing, firefighters said the blaze broke out on the first and second floors of the building, near the electrical meter room. They said it appeared the electrical wiring was involved in the blaze, but will investigate further.

Earlier, police said more than 300 people were still trapped on a roof hours after the fire started in the tower, which houses a shopping mall, restaurants and offices.

A woman surnamed Lai, who was rescued by firefighters, told RTHK that she was eating in a restaurant on the 12th floor when the fire broke out.

She said she fled to a platform on the fifth floor where others, including elderly people and children, had gathered for safety.

“We found that when we went down the stairs that the smoke was too strong and we could not continue, so we went back to the restaurant. Some people even said that we should stay there and wait, but we said ‘no we can’t’,” Lai said.

“Some people already left so we just followed them and then when we got to the fifth floor, we found that the smoke was too strong and we could not go forward. Someone said there is an open area so we just went out and waited on the platform.”

She added that those gathered on the platform waited calmly, even as smoke from the fire thickened at one point, with firefighters using a ladder to rescue them two at a time.

A woman who said she works in the middle section of the 39-storey building told RTHK that she and colleagues were originally told there was no need to evacuate.

“At first we smelled something burning and called the management office. We were told that there’s no need to evacuate yet. But later my colleagues went down to find out more about the situation and said that there was thick smoke downstairs. So we evacuated through the fire escape staircase,” she said.

A man who works on a high-level floor said the fire alarm had not been activated, even though there was a huge amount of smoke. He said he had not been able to open a fire door, so he took a risk by going down in the lift instead.

Another worker in the building said she was in the lift on her way for lunch at around midday and encountered a lot of smoke when the lift opened. She also said that no fire alarm had sounded.

A woman called Kelly, who had been stuck on the rooftop, did report hearing an alarm some time later.

“We heard the fire alarm at about 12:45. Actually we wanted to go down at the beginning, but there was a lot of smoke going up, so some people just gave up getting down and then they rushed up through the stairs. So we also got up to the rooftop,” she said, adding that firefighters eventually escorted her and others out of the building after about three hours.

The Fire Services Department reported 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 for the time being, but the department would have sent inspectors in to see if contingency measures needed to be taken.

“I think the relevant department, particularly the fire department, will follow up on the issue,” chairman of the Wan Chai District Council, Ivan Wong, said.

“They have to ensure all the fire alarm system has to be properly operating during the business hours for those restaurants inside the building.”
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Last updated: 2021-12-15 HKT 19:49