LCQ3: Fire safety of steel-based load-bearing buildings

Following is a question by the Hon Ng Leung-sing and a reply by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John Tsang, in the Legislative Council today (November 7):





On September 11 this year, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City completely collapsed just over one hour after fires raged in them upon the crash of two aeroplanes into them. It was reported that one of the causes of their collapse was the severe weakening of the load-bearing strength of the towers' steel-based load-bearing structure under extreme heat. Regarding the fire safety of these buildings in Hong Kong designed with a steel-based load-bearing structure, will the Government inform this Council:


(a) of the current number of such buildings in Hong Kong and the districts in which they are mainly located;


(b) whether it has assessed the risk of such buildings collapsing due to failure to resist the strong heat caused by fire or other accidents; if so, of the details; and


(c) whether it has drawn up any escape and rescue guidelines on the courses of action to be taken in the event of fire and other catastrophic incidents in such buildings; if so, of the details?




Madam President,


(a) We do not keep a database of buildings in Hong Kong according to types of structure. I note, however, that there is no building in Hong Kong that is similar in structural design to that of the World Trade Center in New York.


(b) We require the structural elements of a building to meet performance standards which are capable of resisting the effects of fire for a specific period of time according to the use and size of the building. The requirements serve to provide sufficient time for occupants to evacuate the premises. The overall assessment is that our buildings are well protected against the effects of heat caused by fire and other accidents that are likely to occur in Hong Kong.


(c) The Government has drawn up escape and protection guidelines for application during fire and other emergency incidents. We have also made extensive effort to educate the public on what to do in case of fire and other emergency situations to ensure personal safety and to avoid panic.


Regarding rescue guidelines, the Fire Services Department has put in place established departmental procedures to provide for graded mobilization of operational resources, including fire appliances, ambulances and personnel, logistic arrangement, and co-ordination among relevant bureaux and departments, non-government organizations and public utility companies during large-scale or widespread incidents.


End/Wednesday, November 7, 2001