Some police involved in the rescue and investigation of the
Nathan Road fire are suffering " flashbacks" and are reluctant
to return to the scene, the force's psychologist said yesterday.
The officers are among dozens who joined a " critical incident
stress debriefing" which started last week and was held for
a fourth group of officers yesterday.
Participants included uniformed officers, detectives and the
Disaster Victims' Identification Unit members who collected
bodies from the building after the fire two weeks ago which
killed 40 people.
The hour-long debriefing allows officers to talk about their
psychological reactions and emotions after the Garley Building
Senior police clinical psychologist Eddie Li Kam-wah said: " Reactions
of the officers included having flashbacks and difficulties
in getting to sleep at night.
" Some said they have to close their windows before going to
bed because they are worried a burning cigarette could blow
into their flats and become a source of fire."
He said others would avoid going back to the scene or eating
certain food, such as noodles with pigs' intestines, which could
remind them of the traumatic experience. " We have told officers
that they have to accept all these reactions as normal in light
of the abnormality of the incident." Mr Li said.
" In some cases, the reaction could last for two to four weeks."
He said a solution for these officers was to " talk it out" .
Superintendent Chan Chin-cheung, who led the unit collecting
the bodies from the devastated building. said members had been
under a lot of stress.
" They have seen a tragic scene. They also had to deal with
the victims' families who wanted the identification done quickly
while we had to take each step carefully," Mr Chan said.
A total of 229 officers have helped with identification of the
bodies, marking the first full mobilisation of the unit in its
Stress counselling sessions for firemen have been conducted
by their department which is finalising two reports on the fire
for submission this week.
The reports look into the cause of the fire, factors leading
to the heavy casualties and recommendations on preventing such
Buildings Department staff have reconstructed the interior structures
of the building to help the investigation
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