SEVERE TYPHOON USAGI

Tai O residents slam red tape amid flooding woes

Government blamed for not helping evacuate elderly whose homes face severe flooding threat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 3:04am

Residents in flood-prone areas yesterday blasted the government, accusing it of poor preparations and red tape as Usagi edged towards the city.

However, there were no reports of flooding in Hong Kong by 9pm last night.

A group of volunteers in Tai O on Lantau also accused officials of failing to help evacuate single elderly residents, who were worried they would not have time to move out of the village's stilt houses into shelters.

"There are many single elderly living here and evacuation takes time because we have to cross a river to get to the shelter," social worker Eddie Tse Sai-kit said. "I am so angry that it is so difficult to contact the officials."

Adding to the residents' woes was a forecast of traditional Chinese meteorology that said there would be a huge tidal flow, which would make flooding much worse.

"Tidal flows are most vigorous on the 3rd and 18th of the Chinese calendar," said Tse, adding that today was the 18th day.

"Flood damage was severe when the 2008 typhoon struck and the water flow was supposedly static."

In 2008, Typhoon Hagupit swamped Tai O with floods of up to three metres in low-lying areas. Several hundred households were affected.

Although the government activated the inter-departmental emergency monitoring mechanism on Saturday, Tse said no local officials could be reached yesterday morning.

"Residents are very worried about this super typhoon and want to move into the shelters before it hits, but the places won't open before the government makes the announcements."

Christina Or Lai-kum, the liaison officer-in-charge who arrived with other officials in Tai O after 3pm, said the government started preparations on Thursday but that the mechanism "relies on the Observatory's information, which sees no risk of flooding". Some elderly residents moved into the vacant flats in Lung Tin Estate late yesterday.

Residents of another two flood-prone areas - Nam Wai in Sai Kung and Lei Yu Mun in Kwun Tong - said no officials had visited their homes.

An elderly woman in Nam Wai was busy moving her plants indoors. "The salt water would damage my flowers," she said. Nam Wai was one of the locations expected to be worst hit.

In Lei Yue Mun, most residents remained in their seaside village houses despite a district councillor's call for them to leave.

"Where can I go?" said a man who wanted to be known only as Mr Wong. He and his wife have lived there for 30 years.

"The waves are usually not too strong and the house can withstand them. But this time I heard that this typhoon will be quite powerful," he said.

Staff from restaurants in the area were seen piling up sand bags. District councillor Lui Tung-hai said only a few residents had moved to a safer place.

"But most of them are experienced in dealing with typhoons."