Rude awakening as Hong Kong Island bears brunt of overnight floods and landslides

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 August, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2000, 12:00am

Hong Kong woke to floods and landslides yesterday as a five-hour burst of torrential rain caught residents largely unaware.

People went to bed on Wednesday night to forecasts of heavy but scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms. But by last night there had been 184 incidents of flooding and 54 landslides recorded as heavy rain swept the territory.

An Observatory forecaster said that they could see which way the rain belt was heading in the hours running up to the storm, but had no way of knowing how heavy the rainfall would be.

Senior scientific officer Cheung Cho-ming said: 'Rainfall can change dramatically in a few minutes due to other factors. It can get heavier or lighter very quickly.'

The amber rainstorm warning was hoisted at 12.25am yesterday when precipitation passed the 50mm-an-hour mark. The downpour worsened at 1.36am when the Observatory put up the red rainstorm warning. The black rainstorm signal was hoisted at 3.05am when more than 70mm of rainfall was recorded. All signals were cancelled around 6am.

Most damage occurred on Hong Kong Island, where 44 floods and 18 landslides were reported.

Mr Cheung said between midnight and noon, more than 100mm of rain was recorded in Kowloon and the New Territories but more than 150mm fell in most parts of Hong Kong Island while over 300mm was recorded at the east of Hong Kong Island.

A 56-year-old taxi driver escaped injury when the Chai Wan-bound lane of Shek O Road collapsed at about 5.30am and his cab fell 30 metres down the slope, landing on a high-voltage cable.

In Wan Chai, floods swamped Canal Road West and a section of Hennessy Road leaving cars stranded. Pedestrians had to wade through knee-deep water which also flooded shops.

Muddy water was washed on to Lyttelton Road in Mid-Levels and Johnston Road and Queen's Road East in Wan Chai from nearby hillsides, while Stanley Village Road was blocked by a huge uprooted tree.

Ip Hung-kin, of Hoi Kee Bookstore at the junction of Johnston Road and Ship Street, said more than 10 neighbouring shop owners were planning to seek damages from the Highways Department after a huge amount of soil was flushed down to Wan Chai.

'We believe the soil was from a repair slope project on Mid-Levels. My shop alone had at least $10,000 paper items damaged by the floods,' he said.

The owner of Ying Lai Chu Shoes and Handbag Co in Queen's Road East said she had to throw away many shoes and bags in her shop as they were soaked. 'I've lost nearly $30,000 worth of goods. The Highways Department has to compensate me,' she said.

A 43-year-old man was struck by a crane while loading a truck at a construction site in Pat Heung Road, Pat Heung, at about 3.30pm. He was taken unconscious to North District Hospital in critical condition.

Severe flooding also damaged Happy Valley Racecourse, which the Jockey Club said would take 10 days to clear up.

Supreme Court Road in Queensway was closed as a 10-metre by 20-metre reinforcement wall between Kennedy Road and Supreme Court Road collapsed.

Firemen rescued a 58-year-old man in Pokfulam Government Primary School as water swept down a nearby valley around 4am and flooded the premises to a depth of about two metres.

The man was in stable condition in Queen Mary Hospital.