There is no room for complacency when it comes to nature’s fury
Hong Kong was left relatively unscathed by Typhoon Hato thanks to our preparedness, yet there is still room for improvement
Having experienced many tropical storms in the past – some of them deadly – Hong Kong escaped relatively unscathed yesterday when Typhoon Hato hit the city. Nonetheless, the havoc wreaked by Hato, the most severe typhoon in recent years, still shocked many and raised questions about our ability to cope should the situation have been more dire.
Few would disagree that Hato warranted the raising of signal No 10, the highest in our storm alert system. The severity of the storm was reflected in the stunning footage captured by the media. A gondola for window cleaning was seen swinging in mid air before ramming into a flat in a high-rise residential block in Kowloon; the windows of some commercial and housing blocks were damaged; and an underground car park at a waterfront housing estate was submerged in water.
Dozens of people were injured, while some residents in rural areas had to be evacuated. Hundreds of trees collapsed, and there were reports of landslips and flooding. The affect on neighbouring cities was far more serious, with at least five people killed in Macau. Some areas were also hit by a major power outage.
While many in Hong Kong were given a day off work, others – including journalists, police officers and firefighters – had to brave the elements and report for duty. Reporters kept us informed of the latest situation, while those in the disciplined forces ensured our safety.
Regrettably, there were some people who ignored repeated warnings to stay indoors and instead ventured out for fun and excitement. There is no shortage of images showing individuals swimming and surfing in rough seas. Others were photographed jogging or fooling around on wave-swept waterfronts, apparently oblivious to the potential danger to their lives and to those who may have needed to come to their rescue.
It has been a while since we have seen so severe a storm. That we have survived most typhoons relatively unscathed may have instilled a false sense of security. That is why many people usually only care about whether they will have a day off work whenever a typhoon is approaching. And then there are those who will complain that the Observatory issued warnings too late, too early or unnecessarily.
Compared to other cities in the region, our preparedness for natural disasters may be among the best. That we have once again come out relatively well owes much to our readiness to learn from past experience. But there is no place for complacency when it comes to coping with natural disasters. Yesterday’s situation showed that there is still room for improvement in our infrastructure and educating citizens about the risks of venturing out in such inclement weather.