7 dead, 11 injured after fire breaks out at Hong Kong apartment building – National

Hong Kong authorities said a fire at an apartment building in a crowded residential district has killed at least seven people and injured another 11.

The blaze occurred Sunday night in Yau Ma Tei, a usually bustling area in Kowloon packed with old apartment blocks, shops and businesses.

The fire broke out in what appeared to be a restaurant that was located in an apartment in a residential building, fire officials said at a news conference early Monday. Officials said the cause of the fire was still unknown.

The building lacked a sprinkler system and people were trapped in the back of the kitchen, according to fire services department officer Cheung Kwong-yuen.

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Local media reports said that people in the restaurant were celebrating Diwali, a Hindu festival, as well as a birthday when the blaze occurred. Lit candles had set soundproofing materials on fire, according to the media reports.

The South China Morning Post newspaper reported that seven people aged 9 to 40 were killed in the blaze, which it said was the deadliest since a 2011 fire that killed nine people. The paper reported seven of those hospitalized were in critical condition.

Video from local broadcaster TVB showed people on stretchers and in ambulances.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam issued a statement shortly after midnight saying that she was “deeply saddened that the fire in Yau Ma Tei last night caused a number of deaths and injuries.” She also visited the site of the fire Monday morning.

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The incident highlights fire safety issues in older buildings in Hong Kong, some of which are not adequately outfitted with appropriate fire safety management systems. Deadly fires used to be a regular occurrence in Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, but have dwindled in recent years as the government implemented stricter fire safety measures.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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