A towering skyscraper in Hong Kong has been engulfed in an out-of-control blaze which saw flaming chunks of debris tumble hundreds of feet through the air to rain down on terrified civilians below.
Officials said the fire broke out around 11:10pm local time on Thursday night (15:10 GMT on Friday) in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, a busy shopping and tourist district on the city’s harbourfront.
Flames were first spotted near scaffolding at the top of the highrise still under construction, with the blaze clearly visible from miles away across the harbour.
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.
The flames on some floors became fiercer and explosions could also be heard.
Two people, said to be motorists, sustained injuries due to the falling rubble and were taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei for treatment, but there have been no reports of deaths.
A fire breaks out in an office building in Tsim Sha Tsui, in Hong Kong on early March 3, 2023
A fire burns at a construction site in Hong Kong, Friday, March 3, 2023. Hong Kong firefighters are battling the blaze that broke out at a construction site in the city’s popular shopping district
Bamboo scaffolding is seen tumbling from the skyscraper on fire
Onlookers from across the harbour watch in disbelief as a skyscraper in Hong Kong burns
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.
Teams of firefighters were dispatched to the site to extinguish the blaze, but its altitude and ferocity meant the flames continued to spiral out of control well into the early hours of Friday morning.
Firefighters used jets and deployed teams with breathing apparatus into the lower floors of the building in a desperate attempt to reduce the intensity of the blaze.
Burning material and sparks were blown through the streets of Hong Kong and nearby buildings, including the five-star Sheraton Hotel, looked to be under threat of being damaged or even set alight by the embers.
Some nearby residential blocks were evacuated as a precaution as the fire spiralled out of control, and small fires were reported at adjacent office blocks, though they were quickly extinguished according to police.
A building is seen on fire in Hong Kong, China March 3, 2023
A firefighter sprays water onto a fire in Hong Kong, Friday, March 3, 2023
Residents and others look on as a fire burns at a construction site in Hong Kong, Friday, March 3, 2023
The skyscraper is seen burning in the early hours of Friday morning
Firefighters battle a fire at a construction site in Hong Kong, Friday, March 3, 2023
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 said.
The under-construction building was a 42-storey ‘harbourside icon’ 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 ($640 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 requests for comment.