China

Hong Kong police investigate deadly Mongkok fire

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Media captionThe blaze, which lasted for several hours, left at least 30 people injured

Police in Hong Kong have launched an investigation into a fire in a Kowloon street-market which killed nine people and injured more than 30 others.

The fire broke out in the early morning and tore through stalls and apartment buildings in a narrow street in Mongkok.

Officials say they suspect the fire was started deliberately.

Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's chief executive, has promised a thorough investigation.

Television footage showed a wall of flame and thick black smoke as the fire tore through the flimsy stalls along Fa Yuen Street.

Government officials say firefighters found charred bodies at the scene.

Like other old districts in Hong Kong, Mongkok has a high population density, with residential flats and shops crammed along narrow streets.

Image caption The same spot has been torched by an arsonist last year

The same area was torched last December, causing serious damage to the market. Police subsequently arrested an arson suspect.

Speaking after visiting injured residents in hospital, Mr Tsang admitted that safety measures taken after the previous fire were inadequate, reports local public broadcaster RTHK.

Mr Tsang said he was shocked and saddened by the incident.

A local resident said the building where many of the victims lived had been subdivided into small living spaces known as "cubicle apartments".

Recent high property prices in Hong Kong have led to the creation of more and more of these cubicles.

A fire at a subdivided apartment building in Kowloon killed four people earlier this year, prompting calls from some lawmakers for a ban on cubicle flats.

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