Students from Cognitio College in San Po Kong were evacuated from the school this afternoon after a fire broke out in a nearby factory building.
Emergency crews were called to Kai Tak Factory Building on King Fuk Street in San Po Kong, where a second-floor unit had burst into flames at about 12.15pm. The cause of the fire has not yet been established.
At 1.45pm, the fire was upgraded to a third-alarm blaze. Fires in the city are rated on a scale of one to five according to seriousness. A 26-year-old woman felt unwell after inhaling smoke and was taken conscious to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
By 3pm, more than 100 firefighters and paramedics had been deployed.
Cognitio College vice principal Wong Lai-san said that because of safety concerns, the school decided to release more than 700 pupils before 12.45pm, about two hours earlier than usual. She said pupils were first asked to remain in their classrooms shortly after the blaze broke out.
“After learning the fire would be upgraded, we decided to release all pupils,” she said.
Because of dense smoke outside the school, Wong said pupils were given face masks before they went outside. According to her, no pupils or teaching staff complained of feeling unwell in the incident.
Lam Yin-fung, a pupil from Ng Wah Catholic Secondary School several blocks away, said he was in the middle of an examination when he smelled something burning around noon.
He then heard the sirens of fire trucks and saw the smoke, but Lam said the school did not evacuate pupils because it was a safe distance from the fire.
At 5.30pm, firefighters were still battling the blaze, according to the Fire Services Department. Nearly 150 firefighters and 20 paramedics were sent to the scene, a spokeswoman for the department said. Thirty-five fire engines and five ambulances were also deployed.
Authorities said there was no automatic sprinkler system in the building. The 13-storey building, which was built in 1966, is among about 480 factory blocks built before 1973 that were not subjected to fire safety requirements, such as an automatic sprinkler system.