Typhoon Haiyan

In face of disaster, let Hong Kong's kindness prevail

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 4:23am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 4:23am

The Philippines, no stranger to the awesome power of nature to wreak death and devastation, has suffered its worst recorded natural disaster. So extensive is the destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan, so catastrophic the loss of life, that the full extent may not be known for days as rescue and relief teams battle to restore full communications with flattened communities in the stricken centre of the Philippine archipelago.

Fears that as many as 10,000 people died in one province alone leave little room for hope that the news will get any better in coming days, barring miracles.

Of course, miracles of survival, or the triumph of the human spirit over unimaginable adversity, will come to light. But it is the human spirit of compassion that an impoverished nation stands most in need of now.

Fortunately, as has been demonstrated time and time again in the wake of major disasters in the region, it is in people's nature that in times of crisis, differences are set aside to lend a hand. The most notable recent examples were Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in 2011, the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004. In the first two, regional animosities with their roots in the Japanese occupation of China gave way to generous aid and support to one another.

In each of these catastrophes, and in countless other examples of suffering and need, Hong Kong lived up to its well-deserved reputation for charitable and compassionate giving. Indeed, we gave more per person to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami than any donor nation.

It is time for Hong Kong to stand up and be counted again in someone else's hour of need. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has extended the city's condolences, hopefully a positive signal to non-government organisations who may seek support from the government's disaster relief fund for humanitarian work in the Philippines.

Despite the tension between Hong Kong and Manila over the resolution of grievances arising from the Manila bus hostage shootings, in which eight Hongkongers died, the kindness and compassion of Hong Kong people will prevail.

Meanwhile, the government should not wait to be asked to relax its one-month ultimatum to Manila for compensation and an apology for the death and injury three years ago.