Angry relatives of the owners of the six fishing boats which caught fire in the Inner Harbour on Monday have criticised authorities’ poor handling of the blaze.
Five of the vessels sank yesterday after the fire reignited despite the efforts of more than 70 firefighters and numerous other emergency workers.
A son of one of the fishing boat owners, surnamed Sin, said that when the fire broke out, no crew members were aboard as they were having dinner on land. Sin questioned the government’s method of putting out the fire after it reignited, saying the government vessels did not try to rescue the boats but only hosed them down from a distance, which led to another explosion.
The Marine and Water Bureau (DSAMA) said that one of the six burning boats was towed from the scene to the closest wharf on Monday night.
DSAMA vessels squirted water at the other five boats until yesterday morning, but the fire in their hulls rekindled. It is believed that the fuel tanks on the boats were full, which led to their eventual destruction.
DSAMA vessels started to clean up the oil spillage yesterday, and officials will soon inspect the remaining boat to investigate the cause of the blaze.
As one of the boats sank on the ferry route between Wanzai and Macao, the bureau suspended the service until 3 pm yesterday.
Macao Association of Ocean Fishing Development and Shipowners Vice-Chairman Leung Kam Kit complained that he did not understand why the government did not allow the fishing boats’ owners to break the chains mooring them together after the fire had erupted, adding that the DSAMA official did not have sufficient equipment to put out the fire.
Leung estimated that the repairs would cost each owner at least MOP 1.5 million, adding that as most insurance companies either do not cover fishing boats or provide insufficient coverage, so most of the owners did not have insurance that could cover the entire cost of repairs. Leung urged the government to help the owners recover from the catastrophe.
Officials from the DSAMA, Customs Service, Fire Services Bureau and Social Welfare Bureau met with the victims of the blaze at the headquarters of the Macao Fishermen’s Mutual Help Association yesterday to extend their condolences.
The bureau promised to allow the owners of the fishing boats to board the vessels once the fire is completely extinguished. Only one of the six fishing boats is registered in Macao, while the remainder are registered in Hong Kong.
The bureau said that it will help the local fishing boat’s owner apply for a loan, while it will assist the owners of the boats registered in Hong Kong to seek assistance from the authorities there.
The Fire Services Bureau said that five boat owners, aged between 36 and 63, felt unwell yesterday due to emotional issues in response to the disaster affecting their livelihoods, The Macau Post Daily reported.
The owners of the six fishing boats gutted by a huge blaze in the Inner Harbour on Monday are now in a “stable emotional state”, Social Welfare Bureau director Wilson Hon Wai has said.
Hon said that on the day of the blaze, his bureau despatched officials to the Inner Harbour to contact the boat owners. He pointed out that most of the owners have a home on land so they are not looking for a place to stay at the moment. Hon added that some of the owners’ families said that they did not need the bureau’s immediate financial support, although he could not disclose more details about their family situation.