Mahjong offer triggers chaos

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 August, 2004, 12:00am

Women injured, children lost as 5,000 queue in rain to take advantage of $108 special deal on crystal tiles

A 5,000-strong queue for a special offer on crystal mahjong sets degenerated into chaos in Wan Chai yesterday as police struggled to control wet and angry crowds.

Three women were taken to hospital with minor injuries and several tearful children were separated from their parents as the crowd surged across a slippery Harbour Road Park. Dozens complained of having their feet trampled or being struck with elbows.

People started queuing on the platform of the China Resources Building as early as 5am for the mahjong sets, issued by the Blue Girl beer label.

Twelve beer caps and $108 were needed to collect the sets under the promotion.

The queue soon extended down into Harbour Road.

As more people joined the queue between metal barriers erected by organisers, the area became heavily congested, with umbrellas adding to the squeeze. By noon, 5,000 people were lined up.

Ms Lai, 50, who started queuing at 6am, said she was wet through from rain and sweat. 'There were too many people queuing. It was so packed that I could hardly move,' she said.

When the queue near Harbour Road Park was allowed to cross to the China Resources Building to collect the sets, confusion set in as the line broke up and some people surged to the front, elbows flying.

The three women who suffered minor injuries were sent to Ruttonjee Hospital. They were discharged after treatment.

The frightened children were taken to a police van to calm down while their parents were found.

A spokeswoman for the organisers, Cheung Ho-ye, said only 2,000 people were expected to come and insisted sufficient security measures to maintain order had been taken. 'We put up metal bars the night before the event and notified Wan Chai Police Station,' she said.

The temporary chaos had been caused by the rain. 'It was the rain which made the people rush to and crowd the indoor queuing areas,' she said.

A police spokeswoman said officers had liaised with organisers before the event to maintain order.

She also said police had closely monitored the situation and had sent officers to the venue from 8am onwards.

Even by 2pm, more people were coming to queue for the mahjong tiles.

Ms Anna Lo, 50, said the idea of crystal tiles was appealing.

'I saw the commercials on TV and thought they were quite cute,' she said.

Despite having waited for more than five hours, she said it was worth the effort.

'Although I was wet all over because I was standing in between people's umbrellas and couldn't hold up mine, I don't mind as long as I have got it,' said Ms Lo, holding up her crystal mahjong pieces.

Ms Au, 34, who came with her four-year-old son, said she did not think the crystal tiles were anything special.

'I came because many people did. Now I feel I am quite a fool queuing for so long,' she said.