Authorities in Hong Kong have ordered a five-star hotel to inspect all its windows within a month, a day after one of them fell 16 floors and killed a woman. That came as police broadened their investigation, looking into maintenance records kept by The Mira Hong Kong.
The Buildings Department said on Tuesday it had completed a preliminary investigation at the Tsim Sha Tsui building and found “no obvious danger” after inspecting some of the windows. But it issued a statutory investigation order to the 18-storey hotel after it found some rivets – used for fixing hinges and handles onto aluminium windows – had begun to oxidise.
“The Buildings Department ... requires the owner of said building to appoint an authorised person to inspect its windows, submit a report and suggestions for remediation works within one month,” a department spokesman said.
A spokeswoman for The Mira, a member of Henderson Land Group, confirmed the hotel had received the order, but would not disclose details, citing an ongoing police investigation. “We will comply with instructions from the department and from the police,” she said.
Shortly before 10.30am on Monday, a 24-year-old mainland Chinese woman was walking along Nathan Road in the busy shopping district when she was struck by a window that fell from the hotel’s 16th floor.
The woman, a tourist from Foshan, Guangdong province, died at about noon after being sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Police arrested a female cleaner, 39, saying the window fell out when she opened it. The cleaner was released on bail early on Tuesday morning and was required to report to police next month.
According to the force, an autopsy would be carried out on Wednesday. One police source said the damaged window and debris had been taken to a government lab for examination. He said police investigators would check details of the last inspection of the window involved, and the related maintenance records, with the hotel and the department. He said officers would also check the hotel’s internal guidelines or rules to find out who was allowed to unlock and open such windows.
Chan Tsz-kit, union organiser of the Catering and Hotel Industries Employees General Union, said the group found the cleaner’s arrest unfair. “An arrest might mean the cleaner bears all the responsibility, which we believe should be weak or even none for this female worker in this incident,” said Chan, adding that they would find it more acceptable if the cleaner was asked to help the investigation.
“No one would expect a window is broken when trying to open it,” Chan said. “It is not so appropriate to put all the blame on this female worker.”
Tuesday’s inspection order was the latest under a scheme started in 2012. Under the scheme, owners of private buildings aged 10 years or more and with three or more storeys can be served with statutory orders to appoint a qualified person to inspect them and supervise and repairs.
After the first notice is issued, window inspections should be done every five years. A panel of professional bodies, property management professionals and district council representatives regularly selects buildings inspection according to age, condition and any safety issues.
The department said it had issued inspection orders to 9,800 buildings under the scheme since 2012, of which 90 per cent were already complied with. Repair works were required in 37 per cent of the closed cases. When the orders first came in, officials set a target of sending them to 5,800 buildings a year. But they revised that down to about 1,000 a year from 2014.
Wong Bay, a surveyor who sits on the selection panel, said it was time to review the scheme six years in, and look at the need to revise the target, and whether there was sufficient manpower in the industry to deal with the cases.