Hong Kong typhoon shelter suffers multi-vessel fire

A fire that broke out in a Hong Kong typhoon shelter early on the morning of Sunday June 27th resulted in the sinking of at least 20 vessels and damage to a further 12, reports the South China Morning Post.

The fire started on a yacht, possibly during a barbecue, but quickly jumped from boat to boat. The narrow channels between the boats at anchor made the fire easier to spread and harder to put out.

Local politicians called for authorities to fix long-known structural problems in the city’s marinas and typhoon shelters.

The event was one of Hong Kong’s worst fires involving boats. In September 2015 there was a similar fire at Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter when about 30 vessels were damaged.

The fire started at Aberdeen South Typhoon Shelter at 02:34 local time and spread quickly. The fire was brought under control by 08:08 and was nearly completely extinguished by 08:40.

More than 200 emergency response officers and about 40 fire engines and ambulances were used during the operation, while police also used 10 vessels to evacuate 22 men and 13 women to a nearby marine police base.

The Marine Department said it had engaged a contractor to clean up debris and an oil spill covering an area about 50 square metres in width.

An estimated 300 boats are moored on that side of the marina, according to residents there.

Steven Ho Chun-yin, lawmaker for the agriculture and fisheries sector in the Hong Kong assembly, said that the fire should prompt the government to rethink the way it manages the city’s marinas. “There are just not enough mooring spaces for all the boats in Hong Kong,” he said. “The problem is similar to how there is not enough housing in the city. You need to have enough space for the boats to minimise the risk.”

Southern district council member Angus Wong Yui-hei, who represents the Aberdeen constituency where the fire occurred, said that the lack of berthing facilities had long been overlooked by the government. “The fire today should prompt people to pay attention to this problem,” Wong said. “The yachts were packed so closely, so it is worth looking at whether the Marine Department has been managing the moorings adequately”.

He said that the government should have clearer guidelines for how much space needed to be kept between each boat, as well as separating out different types of vessels. “It’s really a structural problem, and how the berthing spaces are managed between different types of boats should really be looked at,” he said.