A man has been charged with arson over the shocking firebomb attack on a Hong Kong MTR train on Friday evening which left 19 people injured.
Cheung Kam-fai was arrested on Friday following the attack which occurred during rush hour on a packed train traveling from Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui station. Police say that Cheung tried to throw a “molotov cocktail” on the train for “personal reasons” likely prompted by problems with his family.
Preliminary investigations showed that the 60-year-old had a turbulent relationship with his wife and family, and had been arrested before for minor offenses such as gambling.
Before he pulled out the firebomb, police say that witnesses overheard him vowing to “burn you to death.”
In the attack, Cheung nearly burned himself to death and was rushed to the hospital where he is said to be in critical condition. It’s not yet clear if he meant to kill himself in the fire.
Videos circulating online in the aftermath of the attack show a man lying on the floor of the station platform with his pants on fire while passengers frantically try to put out the flames.
Here’s how one commuter described the incident to SCMP:
“I saw [fire] two compartments away, there was a lot of smoke because… smoke in one compartment quickly filled the entire train. That train journey felt particularly long. There was nothing we could do but inhale the smoke,” the passenger said, comparing the chaotic scenes on board the train to that of the Korean horror-thriller Train to Busan.
“One minute we were all playing with our phones, the next there was smoke everywhere. Some people thought there was an explosion, many people were screaming,” he recalled. “One man was completely on fire, his long trousers became shorts… He crawled and fell, others helped to put out the fire.”
On Sunday, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said that three people remained in critical condition with serious burns following the attack — including one Taiwanese woman. The youngest victim, 15-year-old Audrey Ko, a student at St. Paul’s Co-educational College, is no longer in critical condition after sustaining serious burns to her legs.
Meanwhile, the molotov attack has raised fears around the city about the railway network’s lack of safety protocols. Afterward, it was revealed that only half of MTR trains had CCTV cameras. Additionally, unlike in Shanghai and in other subway systems in mainland Chinese cities, commuters are not forced to pass through a security check before entering the MTR.
Local lawmakers and transport officials have said that is not likely to change, explaining that setting up security checks would be “impossible” and “inefficient” for the city’s busy metro network.
“Searching through the bags of passengers is not a feasible way forward. There is no way people would tolerate this kind of delay,” Lawmaker James To Kun-sun said.
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