Record-breaking heat takes its toll

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 July, 2004, 12:00am

It was the hottest July 1 recorded in Hong Kong, and the heat took its toll; 651 demonstrators needed medical assistance.

About 100 marchers felt ill while waiting in a packed Victoria Park. One suffered heatstroke during the march.

Even a dog brought to the march had to be revived with splashes of water after it fainted.

Forty-three people were taken to Queen Mary and Ruttonjee hospitals, but all were discharged after treatment.

The temperature at the Observatory hit 34.6 degrees Celsius,

and many protesters came well-equipped with bottles of water, umbrellas, sunglasses and spare T-shirts. Organisers distributed bottles of water and even splashed protesters during the march to help keep them cool.

MTR stations were already bustling at noon with people taking trains to Causeway Bay. Crowd control measures were implemented at about 2pm and trains arrived at three-minute intervals instead of the usual five. MTR gates near Victoria Park were restricted to exiting passengers.

The protest appeared to be conducted in a more orderly manner than a year ago. Most groups gathered on the Victoria Park football pitch instead of being scattered around Causeway Bay.

The first batch of protesters left the park at 2.30pm - 30 minutes earlier than planned - to prevent a bottleneck forming. And to avoid the congestion seen at last year's protest, police sealed off westbound roads from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices before 3pm.

Police deployed 1,700 officers to maintain order, compared to 1,300 last year.

Protesters said the officers were more march-friendly this year - they even gave out bottles of water.

The march went smoothly once the Wan Chai bottleneck was passed. It took the first group about one and a half hours to hit the Central Government Offices.

And while many mobile phone networks reported a heavy overload last year, there were no communication problems yesterday as operators increased capacity.