At least 13 people were injured after a fire broke out at Hong Kong's World Trade Center in the bustling commercial and shopping district of Causeway Bay, the government said on Wednesday, with media reporting dozens of people trapped inside.
Dense smoke was seen billowing out from the building, and photos and videos from those trapped inside showed poor visibility as the smoke filled the restaurants and stairways of the building. Authorities said that the fire spread from the building's bottom two floors, which is occupied by a mall undergoing extensive renovations.
The fire services system had been shut off in the mall area, according to Ng Yau Sheung, Hong Kong Fire Services Department's senior divisional officer.
"If the system is under repair, it's possible that the contractor will shut down the area affected," he said during a news conference Wednesday evening.
The blaze was upgraded to a level three incident on a scale of one to five. The 38-story building houses both offices and a mall.
At least 13 people were taken to the hospital for treatment, according to authorities. Three of them suffered injuries while 10 others were suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.
Authorities said they were still looking into whether fire safety regulations had been breached.
Earlier, police had told local media that about 300 people had evacuated to the top of the building while waiting to be rescued.
Many people trapped in the building had also jammed into narrow areas on an open-air podium on the fifth floor, peering over the edge as they awaited rescue. Firefighters had used an extendable ladder to rescue them.
Firefighters evacuated 770 people from the building, according to Ng, while 40 others had self-evacuated.
Preliminary investigations by the police suggested that the fire had broken out in the electrical switch room located on the first floor of the shopping mall, before spreading to the scaffolding that surrounded part of the building, according to the local newspaper South China Morning Post.
Authorities said the fire was under control by around 3:06 p.m. and was largely put out by 4:30 p.m.
The fire services department deployed 176 firefighters to the site. Two breathing apparatus teams and two water jets were mobilized to help fight the blaze, police said.