Street sleeper dies as temperatures fall
THE cold spell has apparently claimed its first victim.
A street sleeper who failed to get a blanket from the Social Welfare Department was found dead in a Hunghom park early yesterday when the temperature had fallen to 11 degrees Celsius.
The man was not given a blanket during the Tuesday night handout because department staff could not find him with outdated information, sources said.
The dead man had moved to Hunghom from Hoi Sum Park in To Kwa Wan, but industrial action by social workers last year had caused delays in updating the department's information.
The man, aged between 50 and 60, was found unconscious in a blue short-sleeve T-shirt and grey trousers on the ground inside a kiosk in Tai Wan Shan Park around 7 am.
He was certified dead on arrival at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
An autopsy will be carried out.
Police said they found about $4,000, three watches, a pen and a lighter among the dead man's belongings.
Sources said the man had been included in a territory-wide survey of street sleepers carried out in 1992.
Last year, the annual survey was postponed from April to November as a result of industrial action by social work assistants during a pay dispute.
A spokesman for the Social Welfare Department said the new data was still being processed.
A source said: 'If the victim could be located early and provided counselling service with a view to persuading him to seek permanent shelter, the tragedy could have been prevented.' The department spokesman said it was difficult to locate and hand over blankets to all street sleepers as they could keep moving around.
A total of 504 blankets were distributed to 461 street sleepers on Tuesday.
There are about 1,000 street sleepers in Hong Kong.
The Government opened 10 temporary shelters last night.
Under the influence of a winter monsoon, temperatures dropped to about 11 degrees in urban areas early yesterday and to 10 degrees in Ta Kwu Ling and Lau Fau Shan.
The Royal Observatory predicted chillier conditions for the next few days, with a minimum temperature of 10 degrees in urban areas and a couple of degrees lower in the New Territories.