Rescue helicopter blown over as wild thunderstorms roll in

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am

A HK$79 million government rescue helicopter was flipped on its side as thunderstorms and wind gusts of up to 130km/h brought wild weather to the city yesterday.

Flights were delayed, trees knocked down and high-rise scaffolding threatened to fall as a line of thunderstorms buffeted the city for most of the day.

The Airport Authority said 148 incoming and outgoing flights were delayed between 9am and 4pm.

At Government Flying Service headquarters at Chek Lap Kok, a Eurocopter EC 155 B1 parked on the emergency standby apron was damaged when it was toppled by a strong gust. Two of the five blades on the four-tonne helicopter's main rotor were bent and the horizontal stabiliser was damaged. No one was injured.

The Observatory said the airport reported gusts of up to 129km/h when the helicopter was blown over at about 9.45am.

GFS operations manager Calvin Shum Chi-wai said the weather was particularly bad at the time of the incident. 'There was a heavy downpour and zero visibility, and winds were very strong,' he said.

The eight-year-old helicopter, one of four Eurocopters used by the GFS, was moved by a crane to a hangar for a thorough inspection.

Mr Shum said GFS operations would not be affected. Aside from its six other helicopters, the service has two fixed-wing planes.

The Observatory said the severe squalls and thunderstorms were associated with a rain band under the influence of an active trough of low pressure.

The thunderstorm warning was in force for 41/2hours before being withdrawn at 12.15pm. It was issued again at 3pm. More than 20mm of rain was recorded over a wide area in the morning.

In San Po Kong, a section of Ng Fong Street was cordoned off after scaffolding came apart near the roof of a building under construction at about 10.15am. The road was re-opened at 1pm after workers secured the scaffolding.

A 10-metre tree was uprooted by strong winds and fell on the boot of a taxi in Lung Sum Avenue, Sheung Shui, at 3.30pm. The driver was uninjured.

The Observatory said heavy rain and thunderstorms would continue for the next few days.