My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 3:33am

Wild weather no time for outdoor play

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Days before Typhoon Usagi landed, the Observatory warned it would be one of the severest storms to hit Hong Kong in recent years. So when it arrived, what did some senseless people do?

One woman was pictured in snorkelling gear as waves splashed onshore. A man was stripped down to his swimming trunks by the Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui. Some people took advantage of the strong winds to fly kites. Quite a few parents were seen taking very young children out on Sunday night in the windiest and wettest parts of Wan Chai, Sai Wan Ho and Tsim Sha Tsui near the waterfronts. When asked, one couple said it was to let their child experience a severe storm! Quite apart from the obvious dangers, wasn't it way past their bedtime?

Were these the type of couples who took young children to the Standard Chartered marathons in shopping clothes and baby strollers; or who joined mass rallies which have become increasingly rowdy and where fights with police are more and more common? Well, let the babies get an early taste of democracy in action.

To be sure, Hong Kong no longer has squatters living on hills with dangerous slopes; and deadly landslides caused by severe weather are increasingly rare. Still, a sense of danger or simply being cautious is well advised. No one was killed in Hong Kong during Usagi. But what if some of those crazies got dragged into the harbour? It means emergency officers would have to risk their lives to save them. Do they deserve help at all while exposing our officers unnecessarily to danger?

It seems our city has become so safe, and its emergency services so efficient and professional, that people are increasingly taking danger itself for granted. This may be why people now cross busy roads oblivious to traffic while playing with their smartphones. The other day, I was in a bank and saw a young woman withdrawing rolls and rolls of cash in HK$1,000 bills. Whatever the amount, it was a lot of money. But the whole time the teller was counting the bills, she was engaged with her iPhone. What could possibly be more important for this person at that time?

When people start to lose a healthy sense of danger and caution, it means they are ill-equipped to deal with disasters - natural, political or otherwise.

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