HONG KONG — Seventeen people were injured when a mentally disturbed man started a fire on a crowded subway train during the Friday evening rush in Hong Kong, according to the police.
The police said in a post on Facebook that one man had been detained in connection with the episode. The fire occurred at 7:14 p.m., according to Kwok Pak-chung, a police district commander.
One of the injured, a 60-year-old man with the surname Cheung, claimed while in an ambulance en route to the hospital that he had started the fire. He was arrested on suspicion of arson.
“The suspect was believed to be speaking nonsense,” Mr. Kwok said, explaining that the man was mentally ill. “What he said didn’t make a lot of sense.”
He added, “At this stage, we’re certain that there’s no evidence suggesting it was terrorism or an attack targeting mass transit system.”
Numerous photographs posted on social media showed the subway car in flames as it traveled on the Tsuen Wan line to Tsim Sha Tsui, on the Kowloon peninsula, from Admiralty, on Hong Kong Island. Passengers on the train were evacuated at Tsim Sha Tsui.
The Fire Department said an initial investigation suggested that the fire was caused by the ignition of a combustible material. Employees and commuters helped put out the flames after the train arrived at Tsim Sha Tsui.
Images on social media showed people walking around with burns and other injuries. Of the 17 people who were hospitalized, two were in critical condition, five were in serious condition, nine were in stable condition and one was released, according to the Hospital Authority.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, expressed sympathy with the victims in a statement, and he asked the territory’s food and health secretary, Ko Wing-man, to visit the hospitalized passengers “to understand their conditions and to instruct the various hospitals to give them full treatment.”
The last major arson attack on a subway train in Hong Kong occurred on Jan. 5, 2004, when a fire broke out as a train was arriving at Admiralty. Fourteen people were injured. That fire was set by a man using newspapers, a lighter and a bottle believed to contain gasoline.
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