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No CCTVs on half of Hong Kong's trains

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Experts and lawmakers call for more safety measures after firebomb attack

HONG KONG: A 60-year-old man has been charged with arson after last Friday evening's firebomb attack on an MTR train, reported Hong Kong media.

The case will be mentioned in court today.

Of the 19 people injured in the blaze, nine are still in hospital.

In the wake of the attack, lawmakers and experts have called for the beefing up of safety measures on trains, enhanced staff training and increased public awareness to better cope with similar situations and emergencies in the future.

Safety fears have been heightened after it was revealed there were no CCTV cameras installed on the train involved.

MTR (Mass Transit Railway) operations director Adi Lau said on Saturday that CCTV cameras were not installed on half of the city's trains and that new CCTV-equipped trains would be ready for service by next year "at the earliest", reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

"If there was CCTV on the train, the MTR staff would have known what happened immediately and have the fire extinguishers ready by the door before the train arrived at the platform," said lawmaker Michael Tien, chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel.

Each MTR train, which has eight carriages, is equipped with 18 fire extinguishers, including those in the driver's cabins at both ends. Dangerous goods such as pressurised gas cylinders or petroleum are forbidden on Hong Kong's subway, but no security checks are in place to ensure passengers do not carry the items, according to SCMP.

Associate Professor Hung Wing Tat, an associate professor in the department of civil and structural engineering at Polytechnic University, suggested security checks at station entrances.

However, Transport minister Anthony Cheung said: "As there are many passengers travelling on the MTR every day, it is not that easy to set up security checks."

More than 5 million trips are made on the MTR daily.

The MTR has since formed an investigation panel to review how the blaze was handled, and whether communication with passengers and the public was effective. An initial report is expected within a month, reported SCMP.

In last Friday's attack at Tsim Sha Tsui station, the suspect has a history of mental illness. Local media said he had recently missed a check-up. 

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