Ruptured Towngas pipe causes headache in Tai Po
Clifford Lo and Stuart Lau
Towngas was forced to cut off gas supply to nearly 10,000 homes, shops and restaurants in Tai Po yesterday, after a burst water pipe damaged a pipeline.
About 300 workmen were still pumping water, sand and stones out of the polyethylene gas line and repairing it last night.
A Towngas spokeswoman said 2,000 households had their gas supply briefly restored, but it was cut off again due to unstable gas pressure. As of midnight, around 1,200 households had their gas supply back. Normal gas flow was expected to resume before noon, the company said.
'A large amount of salt water, sand and stones was poured into our gas pipe and affected a large area in our network,' a Towngas spokeswoman said.
The disruption began when a 15cm-diameter saltwater pipe burst under the footpath outside Lee Heng Kwei Secondary School in Hiu Wan Road, Tai Po, shortly before 5am.
Workers turned off the saltwater supply, which affected only the school.
'It's a 24-year-old, ductile iron pipe,' said Pang Kwok-fan, a senior engineer with the Water Supplies Department. 'The age of that pipe probably caused the burst.'
The rupture released a large amount of water, sand and mud, which poured out and damaged the gas pipes above. The gas supply was disconnected at around 6.45am.
'Fourteen private and public housing estates in Tai Po, involving about 9,800 households, were affected,' the Towngas spokeswoman said.
The affected housing estates included Grand Dynasty View, Paramount, JC Castle, Grand Palisades and Paragon. Supplies to 24 commercial customers, including 15 restaurants, were also halted.
One Chinese restaurant in a shopping mall on the Wan Tau Tong Estate was forced to shut for the whole day, costing it an estimated HK$60,000 in lost business.
It was unable to serve the locals' favourite, dim sum, which requires steaming.
'We are considering recovering [compensation] from Towngas,' said Raymond Cheung Man-keung, executive manager for Park Lane Seafood Restaurant.
Another nearby Chinese restaurant, Chiuchow Garden Restaurant at Uptown Plaza, had no customers during the normally busy lunch hour.
'We only have appetisers available today,' a manager said, referring to dishes that are mostly pre-cooked and refrigerated.
The Towngas spokeswoman refused to discuss the issue of compensation last night, saying: 'We are now focusing on the repair work.'
The Water Supplies Department said compensation would not be an issue because the department was treating the case as an accident.