Letters to the Editor, October 25, 2016
Observatory’s response was over the top
Again, Typhoon Haima was one that turned out to be a weak storm as the centre passed 150 kilometres east of Hong Kong on Friday morning, after much hyping up of it, which resulted in the unnecessarily early cancelling of airline flights and shutdown of offices.
The Observatory was perhaps erring on the safe side, but there was too much of it.
The highest gust recorded, not the sustained maximum wind speed, was only 100km/h territory-wide, which is a only a paltry 50 knots. The Observatory blamed the sweep across Luzon for Haima’s loss of strength. But why didn’t they think so about 18 hours earlier, after it passed Luzon?
The government had paid through its nose to buy the Government Flying Service two business jets to do the storm-penetration flying for the Observatory, which is capable of reading out instantaneously the wind experienced in the typhoon circulation being flown through, to be able to tell the public the truth maybe two to three hours before it hits.
No such storm-penetration flying was apparently done.
Instead, government departments and airlines were confidentially briefed before 2pm on Thursday that the No 8 signal would be hoisted at 8am on Friday.
That sent the government and airlines into an early panic, the office ladies of course telling their close friends “confidentially”. Soon Hong Kong was rife with rumours of disastrous winds forecast to hit at 8am on Friday. Airlines started cancelling flights there and then.
Just after 6am on Friday, they hoisted the No 8 signal, meaning hurricane winds.
But strong winds didn’t arise until the afternoon, blowing down the usual number of trees and a lot of scaffolding but nothing worse, because the typhoon had weakened and shrunk in size.
However, many flights were cancelled unnecessarily early.
What matters to the airlines is when crosswinds and turbulence become excessive, not the No 8 signal per se. When did that happen?
Peter Lok, Chai Wan
Storm offered no respite to students
With the arrival of Typhoon Haima (the Chinese name for sea horse), many students, teachers and workers were wondering if it would mean they would get an extra day off.
For some students, this did not happen and parents complained on social media about their children being given a lot of homework to do on Friday when the No 8 storm warning was raised, resulting in schools being shut.
I think this illustrates that the situation with schools is getting even more ridiculous. Students have to do so many exercises so they face a heavy workload even after the end of the school day. They often do not have time to relax at weekends.
They face more intense pressure than before and no measures have been put in place to deal with this.
The Education Bureau needs to recognise this is a problem and find ways to deal with it. Just having social workers in schools is not enough. Sometimes, students will be reluctant to talk to them.
Our school years should be an enjoyable experience, but this does not happen in Hong Kong.
Schools should be trying to find ways to rectify the problems students are facing.
Zoe Chung Ka-man, Po Lam
Spare thought for those who keep working
Many people welcomed the No 8 signal being raised because of Typhoon Haima, as it ensured they would have an extra day’s holiday.
However, we should not forget those people who had to keep working, despite the storm.
Many workers, such as those in transportation and communications, had to work, despite the conditions, as did health-care workers and firemen who had to remain on call and deal with emergencies.
And we need to also bear in mind that when so many businesses shut down for a day and flights are cancelled because of a typhoon, the city incurs financial losses.
When I look at some of the damage done by heavy rain and high winds, I feel fortunate that I have a safe shelter.
Joey Li, Sai Kung
Shimon Peres was not a peacemaker
In his letter, “Moderating figure in a troubled region” (October 3), Shalom Levy said that “Shimon Peres was a moderating wise man, advocating peace”. “He was a wise father who tirelessly strove for peace,” he wrote.
When he was 24, Peres joined the Haganah, the militia that helped carry out the Palestinian exodus before the state of Israel was founded. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and numerous Palestinians were killed during this tumultuous period.
As a statesman, he was unrepentant in his support for settlement expansion in the West Bank. More than any Israeli policy, this has been the most damaging, undermining successive peace processes.
In 1996, as Israel’s prime minister, he ordered an attack on Lebanon [Operation Grapes of Wrath].
During the campaign, 106 civilians seeking shelter in a United Nations compound were killed in the Qana massacre and four UN Fijian soldiers were seriously injured.
Although Peres claimed “we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise”, there was a UN inquiry, which stated it did not believe the slaughter was an accident.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch concurred with the UN report.
The Israelis had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion [of southern Lebanon]. Separately, the UN had repeatedly told Israel that the camp was packed with refugees.
In the unfortunate case of Palestinian and Israeli leaders, the quote, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, rings frighteningly true.
Ariel Sharon whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies was also called a peacemaker. In the obituaries written about Yasser Arafat, he was labelled both a terrorist and a peacemaker. However, the fact is that so many politicians who have been dubbed peacemakers have blood on their hands.
Peres the statesman never once hesitated to shamelessly defend the periodic barbaric and deadly assaults on Gaza.
He was also in charge of Israel’s defence policies when he oversaw the establishment of the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
Siddiq Bazarwala, Discovery Bay
Clean up bad air with good civic education
I agree that the air pollution in China is serious and that the persistent smog threatens the health of citizens.
I think a major cause is the increasing number of private cars in cities and increased economic development.
For businessmen, the priority is profit, so, for example, they do not fit good-quality air filters to their factories, which could reduce toxic emissions.
The best way to improve the present state of affairs in China is through education. Civic education should be taught at different levels in colleges.
Also, there must be tougher punishment of company bosses who flout the anti-pollution laws that are already in force.
It is difficult for citizens to enjoy better living standards if they have to breathe such bad air.
Mia Chu, Kwai Chung