Monday, November 30, 2015   

Survivors recount their horror ; Workers relive escape from blaze

Yau Wai-ping

Friday, November 22, 1996

Workers relive

escape from blaze

W ORKERS at the Garley Building in Yau Ma Tei told yesterday of their narrow escape from the inferno.

Maggie Chan, who ran a fashion wholesale company on the 12th floor of the building, said she did not react immediately when she smelled something burning before 5 pm Wednesday as she was told it was normal.

"This made me less alert to the risk of a fire," she said.

The staircase outside her office was full of smoke by the time she realised the building was on fire.

She was rescued with five other colleagues by firemen on a crane after being trapped in her office for about 45 minutes.


Frankie Lee Fung-king, general secretary of Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers on the sixth floor, said she was lucky her office had smoke detectors.

"It was a sensitive smoke detector. My colleagues would check if anything happened every time the alarm went off," she said.

"It went off yesterday afternoon and we saw smoke coming out of the lifts and we decided to leave at once."

She said more than 30 staff and visitors in her office were able to leave the building by the stairs shortly before 5 pm.

She said she could not see any sprinklers or smoke detectors in the corridors of the building.

The building was built in 1975 before the government introduced laws requiring all commercial buildings to install sprinkler systems.

A Mr Lee, 40, owner of a fashion wholesale company on the 15th floor, said his workers were delivering goods when the fire started.

"It was pure chance nobody was in the office at that time," he said.

Relatives waited for information on relatives.

A Mr Hui, who went to the police command centre yesterday, said he could not find his sister, a clerk who worked at Chow Sang Sang Jewellery on the 15th floor.

An elderly man also inquired about his daughter who worked in the same office on the 15th floor.

Parts of roads surrounding the building were cordoned off as firemen searched for bodies.

A Mr Lee, who lives next to the building, said he left his dog behind in rush to escape. A Mr Cheung, who lives in the same building, blamed police for preventing him returning home to feed his three pet birds.

Chief Fire Officer Henry Tang Siu said the main obstacle was that the fire spread very quickly after it started.

He said firefighters also had to battle with piles of merchandise in the offices.

Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang visited the site yesterday morning.

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