No WandaIn Hong Kong, common sense keeps lives safe in a typhoon

Posted by On 4:02 PM

No WandaIn Hong Kong, common sense keeps lives safe in a typhoon

No WandaIn Hong Kong, common sense keeps lives safe in a typhoon

But the government still faces flak for its handling of Mangkhut

print-edition iconPrint edition | International

| HONG KONG

IF ANY government could congratulate itself on a storm well-weathered, it was surely Hong Kong’s. Mangkhut, the strongest of the 16 typhoons since the second world war for which its observatory has hoisted the highest, number 10, signal, inflicted no recorded deaths and just 363 injuries. Waglan Island in the east sustained mean winds of 161kph (100mph), the second-highest on record, and gusts of 260kph. The storm surge at Tai Po Kau on the mainland, of 3.4m, was the highest recorded. But people still found reason to blame the government.

When typhoon Wanda struck Hong Kong in 1962, it killed 183 and left 72,000 homeless. In the early 1960s huge shanty-town populations were moved into safer government high-rises. Meteorological prediction and administrative preparation have improved beyond all recognition. Regular updates were posted as Mangkhut advanced. Fishing fleets and merchant craft evaded its path. The authorities evacuated low-lying villages and opened shelters for the homeless. Buses evacuated thousands of residents. Flood barriers were erected.

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The orderly populace heeded injunctions to stay indoorsâ€"turning Hong Kong into a ghost city on September 16th. Still, when the storm struck, no one had experienced anything so violent. Windows popped from office towers and rivers of paper flowed up into the clouds. An external elevator shaft on a high-rise construction site buckled and collapsed. A huge scaffolding front ripped off a building as easily as a sticking plaster. Trees fell like ninepins, and 1,000 sections of road were blocked by trees or debris. Train tracks and ferry piers were damaged, and Mangkhut left the airport with a backlog of 2,000 flights.

But as the clean-up began on September 17th, so did the grumbling. Schools were closed for two days, as some were damaged and streets were still covered with glass and broken branches. But grown-ups had to struggle to get to work despite disrupted underground, bus and rail services.

Tens of thousa nds mobbed the Facebook page of Carrie Lam, the chief executive, demanding to know why no holiday had been declared. One of her advisers helpfully explained that the government “has no power to meddle with all the contracts between employers and employees.” In the 1960s similar arguments were used to explain why the residents of those shanty towns had to stick with the seven-day work week. Hong Kong has been transformed since then. But it remains a city run for the benefit of business.

Source: Google News Hong Kong | Netizen 24 Hong Kong

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