Weather fails to douse festive spirit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2005, 12:00am

Clouds and rain block view of full moon, but thousands flock to the five lantern festivals around the city

Mid-Autumn revellers braved last night's inclement weather hoping to catch a glimpse of the full moon in Victoria Park, but it was hidden behind thick clouds that soaked people with sudden showers.

The campaign against burning candles appeared effective with fewer verbal warnings issued than last year. Nine people were sent to hospital with wax burns.

And as of 9pm cleaners collected triple the amount of rubbish last night compared with the same period last year.

Thousands of people flocked to the government's five lantern carnivals at Victoria Park, Ko Shan Road Park, Tsing Yi Park, Kowloon Park and Tai Po Waterfront Park.

Most families went to Victoria Park to secure a prime spot to view the moon, with up to 60,000 people in the park by 9.30pm.

Fok Luk and eight family members had secured a spot at 6pm, and they did not relinquish their position despite an unexpected downpour drenching them. Others around them dashed off to find cover. The Fok family used white plastic garbage bags to make a tent for themselves to shelter from the rain. 'We're like the refugees in New Orleans,' he said. 'But it's too troublesome to leave now and come back to get a spot.'

Lee Tsz-chai, an eight-year-old who was also in the Fok tent, said it was so much fun with the rain. 'It'd be best if I could run out to play under the rain,' he said.

A strong monsoon signal and the thunderstorm warning were issued yesterday. The Observatory said Tropical Storm Vicente continued to bring unsettled weather to Hong Kong, with several thunderstorms and scattered showers forcing revellers to run for shelter several times last night.

More than 200 revellers went to the temporary West Kowloon waterfront promenade. But 12-year-old Jacky Chan was disappointed with the new venue after being asked by park officers to put out a candle he had just lit.

'The ban on lighting candles here kills the festive mood. I've brought a box of candles and now I can only take it home. I won't come here again next year,' he said.

Another visitor, Kong Sun-kau, 30, also said the new venue lacked a festive atmosphere, with no lanterns and too few visitors.

The fire dragon in Tai Hang once again came to life last night to celebrate the festival and entertain hundreds who lined the narrow streets.

Residents have paraded the dragon, bristling with lighted incense sticks, at the festival annually for more than 120 years. It is believed the dragon is able to drive away plagues.

More than 1,000 Leisure and Cultural Services Department officers collected 20.2 tonnes of rubbish by 9pm yesterday, compared with 19.5 tonnes at the same time last year.

About 3.1 tonnes were collected on the ground instead of in the rubbish bins - three times the amount collected at the same time last year.

A total of 178 verbal warnings over wax-burning had been issued by 9pm. Six of the nine people, aged 9 to 35, admitted to hospital with wax burns were discharged. The others - including an 11-year-old girl - remained in stable condition.

People have another opportunity to see the full moon tonight, with the Observatory predicting rain easing and sunny periods.