Massive fire hits Hong Kong high-rise construction site
A high-rise building under construction in Hong Kong erupted in flames and was still burning hours later, with some nearby residential blocks evacuated early Friday after the fire threatened to spread.
Officials said the fire initially broke out at 11:11 pm (1511 GMT) Thursday in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, a busy shopping and tourist district on the city's harbourfront. It eventually escalated to the fourth level of severity on a five-point scale.
No casualties had been reported early Friday, while 130 affected residents had been relocated to a safe distance, police told AFP.
Flames were first spotted near scaffolding at the top of the building, with the blaze clearly visible across the harbour and sending sparks raining down onto neighbouring streets.
Around an hour later, the fire had spread down the length of the building and was approaching street level, where hundreds of onlookers had gathered.
Japanese tourist Tosho Sai, who was staying in a nearby building, said a security guard told everyone on his floor to leave after a window in the unit next door was hit by embers.
A French business traveller passing by the site said he saw "lots of debris falling" from the tower.
"It's truly an apocalyptic scene... Really very, very scary for everyone", he told AFP
Large pieces of debris -- apparently from the site -- were visible on the ground, and an acrid smell permeated the air, an AFP reporter on the scene said.
Flames were seen on the roof of an office tower across the street at around 3:30 am, prompting fears of a wider inferno in the densely built area.
Police said five buildings in the surrounding area had reported fires, though some had been quickly extinguished.
The building was billed as a 42-storey "harbourside icon" in the making, intended to house the historic Mariners' Club and a new hotel, according to the website of its developer, the Empire Group.
The HK$6 billion ($764 million) redevelopment project was greenlit in 2019 and was originally expected to be completed in the first half of 2023, according to local media.
Empire Group did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.