HONG KONG - The death toll from a building fire in downtown Hong Kong Wednesday morning has risen to nine, and 26 others have been injured so far after the blaze started nearly six hours ago.
Nine charred bodies were found at the fire site in Mong Kok on Kowloon, Hong Kong, 26 people were sent to hospitals for medical treatment, said a spokesman from the Kowloon fire department.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but the possibility of arson can not be ruled out, said a spokeswoman from the Mong Kok police department.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang went to the Kwong Wah Hospital near the fire site and greeted those injured in the hospital, accompanied by senior officials of the city's government.
Tsang said he is deeply sorry and shocked for the incident, adding that a one-year-old baby was among the injuries.
Secretary for Security of the Hong Kong government Ambrose Lee visited the fire site, and said he was very sad over the tragedy. He expressed sympathy to those who lost their beloved in the fire.
Police also have set up a hotline for the public to make inquiry on the casualties of fire, said a government press release.
Up till now, firefighters are still trying to contain the fire. Eleven jets and 10 breathing apparatus teams are used to fight the blaze.
Witness said some residents fled to the roof of the building to await rescue.
Some 70 households have registered loses due to the fire. Shopkeepers also worried huge losses as they are stocking up before the holiday season.
The blaze started around 4:40 am local time, a spokeswoman from the government police department told Xinhua.
Mong Kok is one of the most densely populated area in Hong Kong known to tourists for its traditional markets and small shops.
In December last year, a fire broke out close to the scene causing 7 people injured and several hawker stalls burned to the ground.