Observatory director regrets surfer's death

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 April, 2009, 12:00am

Retiring Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying said yesterday his only regret in his 35-year career in weather services was failing to develop a typhoon-warning system that could keep people out of rough seas.

Speaking on radio, Mr Lam, who begins a holiday today ahead of his retirement, said he was upset that some people still risked their lives with outdoor activities when typhoon signals were in force.

'My job is to minimise casualties when bad weather comes. We have used all our weapons to predict the weather and warn members of the public, but still there are some who take the risk to go out when typhoon signal No8 is hoisted,' he said. 'They take the warning as another name for a holiday.'

Mr Lam said he had felt very sad in 1999 when Hong Kong was hit by Typhoon York because two people ignored the warning and insisted on doing water sports. One of them died.

'We felt very sad. As [the storm] was passing Cheung Chau and Lantau Island, we kept telling the public the wind would die down as its centre was near us and the strong wind would come again when it moved.

'Two people went surfing in Cheung Chau and only one returned. I felt very upset.'

The Observatory also urged people not to go to beaches during typhoons, Mr Lam said.

'But after I made the appeal, people still went to beaches. Most casualties are reported when typhoon signals No1 and No3 are issued, as these people don't take the warnings seriously.'

Mr Lam said he regretted that he had been unable to come up with a warning system to make people realise the risks brought by bad weather, adding that they should take precautions and not risk their lives.

Mr Lam said Hong Kong had not been hit by a supertyphoon since 1979, and that was why so many people, especially those in their 30s or younger, had no idea how disastrous typhoons could be.

'Most people do not know how powerful a supertyphoon is.'