MTRC rues use of tear gas in station

Local | Charlotte Luo 13 Aug 2019

A strong smell of tear gas remained inside Kwai Fong MTR station a night after it was fired, while MTR Corporation Limited urged police force to consider the safety of passengers and staff during operations.

Doctors warned that tear gas is potentially lethal when used indoors, which would stimulate the respiratory tract, triggering inflammation and asthma.

Police confirmed yesterday that one canister of tear gas and two rubber bullets were fired inside Kwai Fong station on Sunday night.

In a statement issued early yesterday, the rail operator said it was "very regretful" that there were passengers and MTR staff inside Kwai Fong station and their safety could be threatened while police reportedly fired rubber bullets in the station.

"We have raised our concerns with the police force and urged them to consider the safety of passengers and MTR staff first during law enforcement," it said.

According to the rail operator, the conflict between police and protesters at the ground-level concourse of Kwai Fong station started at 8.15pm on Sunday.

"Some people were throwing objects, damaging facilities, and misused fire extinguishers inside the station. Officers then started their dispersal operation and they were reportedly fired rubber bullets inside the station," it said.

MTRCL said staff members activated the evacuation procedure when they saw smoke inside the station. Trains did not stop at Kwai Fong station and special trains were arranged to take passengers out of the station.

As of 10.35pm, Operations Control Center decided to close the station for detailed examination and repair after all passengers had left.

The rail firm said it condemned all violent behavior and people should be considerate of others.

MTRCL said the ventilation system at Kwai Fong station was working when tear gas was fired. Cleaning of the facilities including escalators, gates, lifts and ticket issuing machines has been enhanced.

The rail operator has been trying to obtain further information from professionals and overseas railway operators to see if follow-up action is required to further reassure their passengers.

Some Kwai Fong residents avoided the MTR as they worried that residue of tear gas may pose health hazards.

Several young people wearing masks were distributing face masks to commuters and asking people to protect themselves.

David Hui `, the Stanley Ho professor of respiratory medicine at Chinese University, said the concentration of toxic materials would increase when tear gas is used indoors.

The chemicals in the tear gas are heavier than air, so when it was fired inside the MTR station, there was a large chance it would sink to the floor, stick to the wall, ticketing gates, or enter the ventilation system, he said.

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