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【社評雙語道】加強執法檢控 消除舊樓隱患

2020-11-30
■油麻地廣東道一幢唐樓日前發生致命火災。 資料圖片■油麻地廣東道一幢唐樓日前發生致命火災。 資料圖片

【原文】油麻地廣東道一幢唐樓日前發生火災,造成7死11傷慘劇,令人傷痛唏噓。這場火災悲劇,再次敲響本港舊樓消防隱患的警鐘。本港舊樓充斥無牌食肆處所、違規茤苤A大多不符合消防要求,由於人群密集,發生事故不堪設想。舊樓消防隱患難以清除,業主只重利益、漠視安全是基本肇因,政府除加強巡查、排除隱患之外,更應嚴厲檢控懲處疏忽安全、罔顧人命的業主和經營者,切實提升全社會對防火安全的重視,杜絕慘劇重演。

釀成此次慘劇的唐樓於1951年落成,沒有任何消防系統,涉事餐廳亦無牌照,事發時有3個少數族裔家庭正聚餐慶祝一名小朋友生日及傳統節日,單位只有一道門,多人被火焰濃煙所困無法逃生,造成嚴重傷亡。事後消防處成立專案小組,調查起火和引致多人傷亡的原因。消防處及屋宇署將展開特別巡查行動,目標在年底前完成巡查約2,500幢樓齡60年或以上的住用或商用樓宇,特別留意公用逃生途徑的情況及是否有消防隱患。

本港大約有6,000多幢樓齡50年以上舊樓,油尖旺區約佔近半,很多無牌食肆、會所、樓上吧等在內經營,更有25,000多個單位存有約86,400個茤苤A住有約21萬人。這些舊樓走火通道狹窄且雜物堆積,防火門打開,茤衁漣鼣y工程增加建築負荷,亂拉電線增加短路機會,消防隱患處處。舊樓消防隱患問題積重難返,已成為嚴重危害市民安全的定時炸彈。

根據消防條例, 1987年前落成的樓宇,都必須做改善消防安全工程,例如安裝自動灑水、消防喉轆、緊急照明或火警鐘等。為支援舊樓業主進行改善工程、提升消防安全水平,特區政府2018年撥款20億元推出消防資助計劃,資助舊式商住樓宇業主履行條例的要求,計劃撥款可惠及2,000多幢目標樓宇;此後政府再撥款30億元推出樓宇更新大行動2.0,向合資格樓宇業主提供技術及財政支援。但不少舊樓業主不願意負擔改善消防的開支,更以舊樓加裝消防設備有困難為由,對改善消防的指示漠然處之,令舊樓消防隱患長期存在。此次傷亡慘重的火災,雖然無人願見,卻也有其必然性。

1996年,佐敦嘉利大廈五級大火,造成41死80傷 ,全港震驚,已揭露舊式商住樓宇的防火標準過時與市民防火意識不足的問題,事後政府修訂消防條例。

按修訂後的消防條例,大廈收到屋宇署的消防安全指示後,一般要一年內完成工程,但可向屋宇署申請延期;若業主未能在合理時間內遵辦消防指示,又未能提出充分理據支持延期的申請,消防處和屋宇署在法律上有責任採取行動,一經定罪可罰款25,000元等。如今再發生火災慘劇,血的教訓反映,政府必須嚴格執法,對於漠視消防安全的業主和商舖經營者要依法檢控,確保市民生命安全。

此次火災與本港少數族裔慶祝傳統節日排燈節有關,該節日的其中一項習俗是點蠟燭放在地下,祈求好運,結果釀成慘劇。對此,政府亦要亡羊補牢,既要尊重少數族裔文化,同時對特定人群的聚集和節日活動,應加強安全巡查和消防宣傳,預防災難再次發生。 ( 摘錄自香港《文匯報》社評 2020-11-17)

Strengthen law enforcement to eliminate hidden risks in old buildings

【譯文】A tragic fire broke out in a tenement building on Canton Road in Yau Ma Tei a few days ago, causing 7 deaths and 11 injuries. This tragedy once again sounded the alarm bell on hidden fire hazards in old buildings in Hong Kong. Old buildings in Hong Kong are flooded with unlicensed restaurants and illegally subdivided flats. As most of them do not comply with the local fire safety standard and are densely populated, fire incidents can lead to unimaginable consequences. Fundamentally speaking, hidden fire hazards in old buildings are difficult to eliminate because property owners only care about their interests and disregard safety. The government should not only strengthen inspections to eliminate hidden hazards, but also promptly prosecute owners and operators who neglect safety and blatantly disregard the lives of others. By doing so, public awareness will increase, and such tragedies will hopefully never occur again.

The tenement building where the tragedy took place was built in 1951 and has no fire safety system. The restaurant involved was also unlicensed. At the time of the incident, three ethnic minority families were gathering to celebrate a child's birthday along with a traditional festival. When the fire broke out, they were trapped by flames and smoke as there was only one door, therefore causing serious casualties. After the incident, the Fire Services Department set up a task force to investigate both the cause of the fire and the cause of the serious casualties. The Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department will also start inspecting more than 2,500 residential and commercial buildings that are over 60 years old to check on fire escape routes and other potential fire hazards. The joint operation is expected to complete by the end of the year.

There are 6,000 buildings which are at least 50 years old in Hong Kong, and nearly half of them are located in the Yau Tsim Mong District. Many unlicensed restaurants, clubs, and upstairs bars are situated in these old buildings. Some 25,000 flats were also subdivided into 86,400 smaller units, housing nearly 210,000 people. The fire escapes in these old buildings are narrow and often obstructed while the fire doors are usually left open. The building works associated with the subdivision of flats could cause overloading to the building structure. Poor and illegal electrical wiring may also lead to short circuit. These potential fire hazards in old buildings have spiraled out of control and became a timed bomb that poses a serious threat to public safety.

According to the Fire Services Ordinance, all buildings completed before 1987 must undergo fire safety improvement works, such as installing automatic sprinklers, fire hose reels, emergency lighting systems, fire alarms, etc. In order to help property owners of old composite buildings to carry out the improvement works and comply with fire safety requirements, the government launched the Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme in 2018. The scheme's funding of HK$2 billion could cover improvement works of more than 2,000 targeted buildings. Another HK$3 billion was allocated soon after to launch Operation Building Bright 2.0, a scheme that aims to provide technical and financial support to eligible property owners. However, hidden fire risks still linger on as many property owners are still reluctant to bear the costs, and chose to ignore the government's instructions on the grounds that there are difficulties in installation. The fire was tragic, but it did not happen without a reason.

The Garley Building fifth-alarm fire in 1996 shook Hong Kong as it took the lives of 41 people and left 80 injured. The government responded by amending the Fire Services Ordinance, as the tragedy revealed problems such as poor public awareness and obsolete fire safety standards for old composite buildings. According to the amended Fire Safety Ordinance, improvement works must be carried out and completed within a year after receiving the fire safety direction from the Buildings Department, but owners could apply for deadline extensions. If the owner fails to comply with the fire safety direction within a reasonable time and fails to provide sufficient grounds to support an extension application, the Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department are legally obliged to take action. Once convicted, the owner could face penalties including fines of up to HK$25,000. Now that another tragic fire has struck Hong Kong, the "lesson of blood" from years ago dictates that the government must rigorously enforce the law and prosecute those property and business owners who ignore fire safety regulations.

The cause of the tragic fire is related to ethnic minorities celebrating the traditional festival of Diwali. Placing light candles on the floor for good luck is one of the customs of this festival, yet it is this very custom that has resulted in tragedy. On the premise of respecting minority cultures, the government should also remedy the situation and prevent future recurrence. The government should step up publicity on fire safety among ethnic minority groups and strengthen inspections, especially during their festivities.

Exercise

1. 唐樓

2. 防火門

3. 綜合用途建築物

4. 太平門/緊急出口

5. 消防喉轆

Answer

1. tenement building

2. fire rated door

3. composite building

4. emergency exit

5. fire hose reel

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