The suspected attacker (on floor in right picture) has himself seriously burnt. Photo: Facebook
The suspected attacker (on floor in right picture) has himself seriously burnt. Photo: Facebook

A 60-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested after setting fire to a crowded subway carriage during rush hour on Friday evening, injuring at least 18 people, with three of them in critical condition.

Cheung Kam-fai had been muttering before the attack and suddenly yelled  “burn you all to death,” Apple Daily cited a witness saying. Phone footage from people in the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station showed Cheung standing on the platform with his trousers ablaze. He then collapsed on the floor and passengers beat out the flames with their clothes.

Cheung, who was seriously burnt, was speaking incoherently when he was taken to hospital for treatment but told police that he had started the fire “personal reasons” and was arrested for suspected arson, Yau Tsim District Commander Kwok Pak-chung told journalists. There was no evidence that the attack was linked to terrorism, he said.

The suspect is married with one son and one daughter and has a history of mental illness, Sing Tao Daily reported. He had worked as a security guard before becoming jobless.

Footage showed flames inside one of the train carriages, thick smoke and chaotic scenes as passengers fled the scene.  The fire started on a train departing from Admiralty in Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon at 7.13pm. The TST station was closed for four hours.

Fire officers said the man ignited some inflammable liquid towards the rear part of the train, setting fire to himself in the process. 

The train took about 3 minutes to reach Kowloon. A photographer for a local TV channel was on the train and caught the drama on video.

A total of 160 police officers and 130 firefighters were deployed. Among the injured, three women, including a Taiwanese tourist, are in critical condition. Five others are in a serious condition.