[UPDATE: Friday, June 24, 13.00 PM]
A second firefighter has died in the line of duty. Senior fireman Samuel Hui Chi-kit, 37, from Kwun Tong fire station died after being taken to hospital on Thursday. Two others were taken to hospital with serious injuries on Thursday evening. A total of 11 others have been taken to hospital since the fire broke out.
At 7pm on Thursday, Hui and two of his teammates were rushed to hospital. Hui had been found unconscious by his teammates on the third floor of the burning Amoycan Industrial Centre as they were changing shifts to leave the site. He died at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong about two hours later.
Hui is survived by his wife and a seven-year-old son.
The tragedy came as the city was still mourning senior station officer Thomas Cheung, 30, who died on Tuesday night battling the fire.
Hui had changed his Facebook profile picture to completely black on Wednesday morning, apparently to mourn senior station officer Thomas Cheung's death.
Before leaving Kwun Tong Fire Station on Thursday, Hui posted a picture of his fire truck and wrote: “It’s finally my turn to go there! Let me conquer it with my team and see how ferocious you are. Don’t worry, I will bring all my brothers back to the station safely.”
Speaking on RTHK on Friday, Fire Services Department Staffs General Association chairman Jerry Nip Yuen-fung said Hui’s two teammates were in stable condition.
“They suffered no serious or bodily injury, it was just exhaustion, and they want to get back to work as soon as possible,” Nip added.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok stated halting the three-day operation against the blaze at Ngau Tau Kok and letting the industrial building burn down was not a way out, as he called for public support for firefighters, rather than criticism of their firefighting strategies.
“I’ve noticed there are voices in the city casting doubt on the strategies and the commands [adopted and offered by the Fire Service Department],” Lai told the press on Friday on the sidelines of the Legislative Council meeting.
“All firefighters have gone through professional training and are equipped with professional knowledge and skills. They would know what the best strategies are to combat the blaze.”
Those on the ground would be the most familiar with the situation, he said, adding that citizens should offer support instead of censure to the firefighters at this very moment.
A book of condolence has been set up at the Hong Kong fire services department’s training academy for the two firefighters who died.
The flag of the Fire Services Department flew at half mast at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy in Tseung Kwan O where the book was being displayed.
The condolence book is located in the academy’s education centre and is open to the public on Friday and Saturday from 9am to 9pm. A decision has not yet been made as to the book’s availability for signing next week.
[UPDATE: Thursday, June 23, 12.20 PM]
Firefighters are still battling the Ngau Tau Kok blaze. Nine others firefighters were hospitalised for smoke inhalation and dehydration. And all have been discharged.
About 300 elderly from Cambridge Nursing Home and Tak Bo Nursing Centre next to the site of the fire were evacuated.
Pro-Beijing politicians are feeling the heat. Four district councillors of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong posed for a group photo on Tuesday afternoon in front of the Ngau Tau Kok blaze in which a fireman later died.
Demosisto Vice Chairperson Oscar Lai showed his respect and support for the firefighters in the Ngau Tau Kok blaze on his Facebook, but some internet users are riticising him for trying to gain support for the September Legislative Council elections.
At 10am on Wednesday, firefighters continued to battle the massive blaze that swept through a Ngau Tau Kok industrial building. One of their colleagues was killed in the fire, while four others were taken to hospital. The fire was under control yesterday morning, but the third floor of the building, where SC Storage site is located, remained ablaze after more than 20 hours.
The blaze was first upgraded to a third-alarm fire at 12.14pm on Tuesday and a fourth alarm at 7.46pm. Fires are rated on a scale of one to five according to seriousness.
Senior fireman Thomas Cheung died on Tuesday night after being found unconscious inside the building. He was with a teammate when there was a sudden rise in temperature and smoke. His colleague escaped and reported the situation, but lost contact with Cheung. Four others firefighters were earlier taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and dehydration.
Crews were first called to the storage facility on the third floor of the Amoycan Industrial Centre on Ngau Tau Kok Road at 10.59am. Thirty engines and about 120 firefighters were deployed.
“We encountered some difficulties in the blaze due to a large area, severe heat and dense smoke,” said deputy chief fire officer Poon Wai-lun. He said there were more than 200 mini-storage cubicles and the passageway to them was narrow.
“Each cubicle was locked by occupants. We had to break them open to hose them,” he said
Crews used six water jets and deployed 12 teams equipped with breathing apparatus to enter the building.
The fire raises question over if older buildings in the city should be legally required to install sprinklers. The 66-year-old Amoycan Industrial Centre in the fire was not equipped with sprinkler systems.
Cheung left his wife and their four-month-old child. St. Pauls’ College’s alumni association and his former schoolmates from HKU’s Wei Lun Hall are gathering donations to help his family get through the difficult time.