HONG KONG, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Hong Kong government will consider implementing more stringent measures, such as increasing penalties, to improve fire safety in Fa Yuen Street, downtown Hong Kong, an official said on Wednesday.
Director of Food & Environmental Hygiene Clement Leung was speaking to the media after a fire broke out at hawker stalls on the popular Mong Kok shopping street, killing 9 and injuring more than 30.
In December last year, a similar fire broke out close to the scene, causing several people injured and many hawker stalls burned to the ground.
"After the big fire (there) last year, we have been implementing a number of measures to improve the fire safety situation that included limiting the size and height of the hawker stalls and prohibiting the stall canopies from being connected to each other and to connecting buildings," said Leung.
"We have also arranged with China Light & Power to supply legal and safe electricity to the stalls and to re-site hawker stalls standing at the entrance of single staircase buildings to ensure there is sufficient space for residents to escape in case of fire.
We also require stalls to maintain a suitable distance among each other to provide enough room for fire engines to move around and to operate in case of fire."
He said the department has escalated enforcement action and prosecuted hawkers and stall owners violating the rules in storing an excessive amount of merchandise outside their stalls.
"In the middle of this month we issued 200 warning letters to all stall owners and operators telling them they should, within a reasonable period of time, remove obstructions from the streets," he said.
"I would like to appeal to the stall owners and stall operators to exercise self-discipline and self-restraint. The department will escalate enforcement actions," he added.
The blaze started at around 4:40 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lasted over 7 hours.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government's Criminal Investigation Department has been involved in the case as arson was suspected.