Careless grave-sweepers spark hill fires

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2009, 12:00am

Firemen were kept busy dousing hill fires yesterday - 28 by 5pm - as grave-sweepers flocked to the final resting places of their ancestors for the Chung Yeung festival.

One of the biggest fires broke out at about 1.30pm at Keung Shan on Lantau, where about 500,000 square metres of hillside were ablaze. A helicopter was sent to drop water, and the fire was put out at about 8pm.

Another large blaze broke out at about noon at Mui Tsz Lam, Ma On Shan, with 40,000 square metres affected. A helicopter was also sent to assist, and the fire was put out at about 8pm. There were no reports of injury at either fire.

It was dry yesterday, and relative humidity over most of the city fell below 70 per cent, the Observatory said.

At cemeteries, appeals were repeatedly broadcast to grave-sweepers, urging them to put out fires and clean up after burning offerings. At a Yuen Long cemetery, volunteers distributed bottled water to sweepers.

People traditionally go climbing on the Chung Yeung festival, which falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. The festival is one of two annual occasions when Hongkongers commemorate their ancestors by sweeping their graves and burning paper offerings. The other is the Ching Ming festival in spring.

Many grave-sweepers had to walk for more than an hour up the slope to Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery yesterday because of traffic controls and a road closure. Some elderly visitors complained about the arrangement, which police said was to control crowds. But one man said: 'I think the walk is fine, just like hiking. Our family also takes advantage of the festival to stage a family gathering.'

A ceremony commemorating those who died in the defence of Hong Kong during the second world war was held at City Hall in Central.