Small band of emergency staff get city moving again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2003, 12:00am

Preparing buses, trains and ferries for post-typhoon rush was an all-night job

While most of Hong Kong slept through the worst of Typhoon Imbudo, 15 staff at the government's Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre worked through the night to ensure public transport services would resume smoothly yesterday morning.

The staff at the centre in Wan Chai were co-ordinating the resumption of bus, rail and ferry services in anticipation of the typhoon signal 8 being lowered in time for the start of the working day.

The centre is in constant touch with transport operators' control centres and with the on-site control centres of major transport infrastructure, such as Tsing Ma Bridge and the three cross-harbour tunnels. It also controls the closed circuit television system that monitors major roads. Between two and four staff operate the centre during non-crisis periods.

Assistant Commissioner for Transport Brian Grogan said staff numbers yesterday were increased steadily from 5am in anticipation of the rise in demand for public transport that would follow the lowering of the No 8 signal. Employees must go to work within two hours of the signal being lowered.

Mr Grogan said the centre's main role was to keep the public abreast of transport operators' plans when they restarted services.

Because the signal 8 went up so late '[when] almost everyone would have been at home', there was little impact on transport services at the height of the storm, he said. Mr Grogan said: 'For a typhoon, it was a fairly quiet and normal night. A lot of trees came down, and some scaffolding, but nothing spectacular took place, just the rerouting of a few [overnight] bus routes. We were just monitoring things while the signal 8 was up, but we knew that activity would increase once the warning dropped back to signal 3.'

At Chek Lap Kok, 17 flights were delayed and 36 were cancelled. Two inbound flights were diverted.

Both rail companies, whose services shut down about 1am, reported normal operations through most of the storm, although the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation operated its early-morning services at slightly increased intervals.

New World First Ferry's services to outlying islands were suspended from about 10:30pm on Wednesday, but by 11am most had resumed, although the company warned of possible delays throughout the day due to rough waters.