Fire in Hong Kong Apartment Building Kills 7, Injures 11

Authorities in Hong Kong have said that at least seven people have been killed and 11 killed in a fire in an apartment building that may have begun at a Hindu religious gathering.

The fire broke out on Sunday night in Yau Ma Tei, a busy area in Kowloon, filled with old apartment blocks, shops and businesses, reports AP.

The fire began in what appeared to be a restaurant housed in an apartment in a residential building, fire officials said at a news conference early on Monday. Officials said the cause of the fire is still unclear.

The building lacked a sprinkler device and people were stuck in the back of the kitchen, according to fire department officer Cheung Kwong-yuen.

Local media reports said that people in the restaurant were celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival, as well as the anniversary of the fire. According to media reports, the lit candles had set soundproofing materials on fire.

The Hong Kong government announced the deaths of four men and three women aged 8 to 38 years. The fire is confirmed to have been the worst since the 2011 fire that killed nine people.

The apartment, on the first floor of a low-rise building, had some of its windows blown out during the fire, and the exterior walls were coated with soot. The building was corded off on Monday, when the police were standing guard.

Neighbors said that many Nepalese live in the city, and that the people caught in the fire were from the South Asian country, many of whose citizens work in Hong Kong's finance, retail and security firms.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam released a statement shortly after midnight saying that she was "deeply saddened that the Yau Ma Tei fire caused a number of deaths and injuries last night." She also visited the fire site on Monday morning.

The incident highlights fire safety issues in older buildings in Hong Kong, some of which are not adequately outfitted with appropriate fire safety management systems. Deadly fires used to be a regular occurrence in Hong Kong, one of the world's most densely populated cities, but have dwindled in recent years as the government implemented stricter fire safety measures.

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