First SMS flood alert is just a damp squib

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 April, 2006, 12:00am

Drainage chiefs have come to the rescue of Sheung Wan residents and shopkeepers tired of watching their expensive dried seafood washed down the tubes during heavy downpours.

But their new $200,000 instant message system did not get off to an auspicious start on Monday, when an SMS warning had to be withdrawn two hours later because it was incorrect.

The message, sent just before 3.30pm and warning of rising water in and around Wing Lok Street due to high tides, was the first to be relayed through the new messaging system since a trial on April 18.

The Drainage Services Department said it was incorrectly sent due to a computer error that had since been fixed.

Department director Wong Chee-keung said the messages would give shopkeepers a chance to save their stock from rising waters.

'When they know a flood is on the way, they can move their abalone or other seafood to some higher places,' he said, adding that a standby team would also be sent to the district under severe weather conditions.

About 220 users have registered for the service, which sends out alerts when high tides inundate stormwater drains or an amber rainstorm warning is hoisted.

The system, intended to reduce damage until new drains and a pumping system are ready in 2009, aims to prevent a repetition of the chaos last June, when 112mm of rain fell on the area in a few hours.

But Central and Western District councillor Kam Nai-wai said the government should not use the system until its accuracy could be assured.

'What if a wrong message comes at 2am when people are in bed?' Mr Kam said.

He also questioned why it took more than two hours for the department to send a correction message on Monday.

Dried-seafood-store owner Wong Wing-hoi said he would register to guard against flooding at night. 'We don't know if a flood is coming when we are in bed,' he said. 'And I haven't got any insurance [for my goods].'