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Hong Kong construction site blaze mostly put out after burning for 40 hours

Hong Kong firefighters have mostly extinguished a massive blaze at a construction site after it burned for more than 40 hours.

The fire, which began at a Housing Society site in Tin Shui Wan at about 1.20pm on Tuesday, was largely put out by 7am on Thursday.

The Fire Services Department said on Thursday morning that some firefighters still needed to stay behind to prevent the fire from emerging again.

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Wong King-man, deputy chief fire officer of the New Territories North, said the vast area of the site, together with a large amount of building materials, had complicated the operation.

“The fire site is 70 metres by 80 metres [230 feet by 262 feet], meaning the size is more than 5,000 square metres,” Wong said.

“There were lots of smoke and the temperature was very high, going beyond 500 degrees Celsius,” he added.

The highly inflammable oxyacetylene cylinders at the site also contributed to the intense fire, Wong said.

Firefighters were able to rein in the blaze after changing their defensive strategy to a more proactive one on Wednesday, authorities said.

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Emergency personnel were unable to access the basement area of the site, where they said they believed the fire started, for more than a day. Drones were deployed for aerial surveillance and robots sent to assist firefighters during the marathon bid to gain the upper hand.

Wong explained that the basement was like a maze, with metal and wooden frames strewn about that prevented firefighters from getting in.

As of Thursday morning, authorities had mobilised 741 firefighters and emergency personnel, 201 fire engines and 14 ambulances. Eight water jets and six breathing apparatus teams were involved.

Firefighters battle the blaze at the construction site. Authorities said explosions occurred in the basement, possibly linked to oxyacetylene cylinders. Photo: May Tse

At its peak, the fire was upgraded to a No 4 alarm. Fires in Hong Kong are rated on a scale of one to five, with five the most serious.

The Fire Services Department said earlier that explosions had occurred in the basement, possibly linked to oxyacetylene cylinders.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. No casualties have been reported but residents nearby were forced to close their windows to avoid the plumes of thick smoke entering their flats.

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Mary Chan Yuen-ming, a chief officer at the Buildings Department, said that two tower cranes at the site were under no immediate danger. Officers from the department would also stay behind at the site to provide assistance to firefighters.

She said further inspections were needed to determine when construction work at the site could resume.

“We need to go inside the site to do an assessment and to see if there is any follow-up work needed,” Chan said, adding that they would also inspect the supporting bases of the two tower cranes.

The site is for a Housing Society dedicated rehousing estate at Phase 2 of the Hung Shui Kiu/Ha Tsuen New Development Area.

The scheme was expected to be completed in 2026 and provide 962 subsidised flats for sale.

The society said it would consider reinforcing two tower cranes at the site, or disassembling and replacing them, after the site was reopened.

A separate fire on Wednesday broke out in a 60-year-old building killing at least five people and injuring 43 others.

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