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Nine dead in fire at popular Hong Kong market

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
updated 10:56 AM EST, Wed November 30, 2011
  • Nine people dead, 30 others taken to hospital for treatment
  • Blaze broke out at a hawker stall near Ladies' Market in city's Mong Kok district
  • The authorities have yet to give a reason for how the fire started

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The death toll from a deadly fire that swept through a popular tourist market in Hong Kong Wednesday morning has risen to nine, officials have said.

The blaze broke out at a hawker stall close to the Ladies' Market in the city's Mong Kok district, the Hong Kong government said in a statement.

Eight charred bodies were removed from the scene, while 30 people were taken to hospital for treatment -- four are in a critical condition.

Fire crews with breathing apparatus battled the fire in the city's Fa Yuen Street for several hours, with up to 30 fire trucks on the scene at one point.

"I vaguely heard people shouting for help and I went to the window to see what was happening," local security guard So Kwok Suen told CNN.

Deadly market fire in Hong Kong
Map: Fa Yuen Street  Map: Fa Yuen Street
Map: Fa Yuen StreetMap: Fa Yuen Street

"I saw a big fire close by and I woke my family up. We live at the top of the building on the 7th floor, so we went to the next building and went down because it was safer."

Another resident thought the fire had started in a building rather than on the street. "When I came down I heard people say the fire started on the second floor," said Chow Sze Sun.

"At first I thought it was the stalls on the ground floor but then I heard more about the fire started on the second floor."

The street is typical of the narrow roads in the area, which are lined with residential buildings, shops and hawker stalls. Mong Kok has long been a magnet for thousands of tourists exploring the array of traditional markets and small shops that characterize the area.

Last year, 50 stalls burned to the ground in the same street, injuring six people.

The Standard reported that police investigated claims the incident on Fa Yuen Street was caused by arson -- though there is no suggestion from the authorities as to the cause of Wednesday's blaze.

Meanwhile, the authorities have opened up a local community hall and a sports center to families affected by the fire in the densely populated area.

Sisters Cobe and Elyse Chung were both forced into an emergency shelter in neighboring Yau Ma Tei district -- the second time in as many years that they had been evacuated because of a fire.

"If we can't go back home tonight we have no idea where we will go," said Elyse.

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