Nam Sang Wai in Yuen Long in the New Territories. Photo: Google Maps

Firemen have asked police to investigate after a second fire broke out in wetlands in the New Territories’ Yuen Long district on Tuesday. Firemen spent 16 hours putting out the first fire, which started on Monday.

The first fire started at 3pm on Monday in Nam Sang Wai in Yuen Long and hikers saw heavy smoke coming from the woodland and raised the alarm. The fire grew in intensity and it took 16 hours to extinguish the blaze, the Headline Daily reported.

Many trees and reed marshes were lost or damaged in the first fire.

However, a second fire started on Tuesday afternoon which took firemen two hours to put out. A total of six hectares had been burned.

Firefighters said the second blaze was suspicious and police were investigating. Police classed both fires as arson.

Nam Sang Wai, which is along the Kam Tin and Shan Pui rivers, is a scenic spot frequented by bird-watchers, cyclists and picnickers with its landscape of farms and fish ponds as well as tall reeds and wooden huts.

It also plays a key role in preserving Hong Kong’s biodiversity and is an important piece of protected wetland. Woo Ming-chuan, a senior conservation officer at the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, said Mai Po and Nam Sang Wai were major night habitats for egrets.

Woo said it is hard to estimate how long it would take the area to recover from the damage caused by the fires. Democratic Party legislator Roy Kwong Chun-yu said the area had been hit by mysterious fires, trees being cut down and river beds drying up in recent years, the Apple Daily reported.

The Conservancy Association said on its Facebook page that there were fires in Nam Sang Wai in 2007, 2008, 2010 and on New Year’s Day in 2011.

Given the wet and humid weather in spring and summer, and the dry and cool weather in autumn and winter in Hong Kong, the fires did not put out enough heat to burn the plants, the association said, adding that the fire in Nam Sang Wai must have been man-made, the Facebook post said.

Several developers have acquired plots of land in the area and wanted to build shopping malls, apartments blocks and luxury houses, but there was massive opposition from residents and nature lovers.

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