Fire in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen South Typhoon Shelter

A fire has swept through Hong Kong’s Aberdeen South typhoon shelter, damaging over 30 boats and sinking at least 20. The fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning at around 2.30am and firefighters used 11 fire boat monitors, eight jets, and mobilised four breathing apparatus teams to fight the blaze. Around 35 people were rescued and no one was seriously injured, according to local public broadcaster RTHK. The fire was upgraded to a three-alarm fire two hours later, and was largely extinguished at 8.40am.

The marine department is now working to recover sunken vessels and debris from the shelter, and clear an oil spill that has spread over the water. Fire services commander Yiu Men-yeung told an SCMP reporter that efforts to contain the flames were hampered because the anchored boats were moored so closely together.  “The fire first broke out on a yacht … and it spread to many vessels because of the wind,” he said, adding that some of the burning vessels had tipped over onto their side.

The fire has prompted fresh calls for the government to reassess the way marinas are managed and to prioritise the availability of new spaces, to prevent boats from becoming excessively crowded together.  Earlier this month, Delta Marina announced it will be offering 600 new moorings for pleasure vessels in Hei Ling Chau, after gaining permission from Hong Kong Marine Department.

A 2013 Hong Kong Marine Department survey found that more than 40% of private moorings were not used for the mooring owner’s vessel and that these moorings were being rented out at high rates. A 2019 Ombudsman’s Report found that the Marine Department had done little to stop the practice, leaving people waiting for years for a private mooring.

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