Bosses who won't let staff off early during typhoons help create commuter panic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am


Having spent 36 years in Hong Kong, and worked through quite a few direct typhoon hits, the complaints every time the typhoon signal number 8 or higher goes up never cease to amuse me.

Perhaps because Hong Kong has changed so dramatically from the days when hundreds of people could be made homeless and many died due to weather-induced disasters, or perhaps because we have not had a big hit since the 1990s, people have become complacent, thinking that severe and super typhoons are just a wet, windy day off work.

Reading of people complaining of missing a day's holiday shopping, or sitting on a plane on the tarmac overseas for hours, or landing and not being able to deplane, or being unable to get home due to trees having brought down rail power lines, is saddening.

They should be thankful for the pilot who manages to put the plane down safely, or who decides to divert, or not depart and for the rail engineers working to clear lines in the typhoon and restore services, if not immediately at least in time for normal life.

They should also be grateful to the policemen and firemen clearing fallen trees from roads throughout the storm so that transport, and especially ambulances, can get through, and to the bus and taxi drivers who still drive their vehicles in unsafe conditions.

Put it into perspective. Severe and super typhoons, or hurricanes elsewhere in the world, create havoc; they destroy and kill even in well-prepared societies.

Just look at the destruction in Australia a few years back and that which occurs regularly along the US' eastern seaboard.

Even Britain suffers a number of deaths annually from gale force winds and flooding.

To expect Hong Kong to tick along comfortably in these conditions is laughable.

The real problem is the attitude of bosses who won't let staff leave until the very last minute, or until after it is safe; don't provide safe accommodation for staff who must stay behind (I'm thinking of the story of the hotel worker let off work to go home at around midnight), or penalise staff for not being at work the very second the number 8 is lowered.

This lack of civic responsibility by employers is the real shame, as it creates much of the panic - crammed public transport, desperate and unsafe attempts to get home or to work - that is unnecessary in a civilised society and that is inherently dangerous.

Kenneth Davey, Yuen Long