Tai O still waiting for flood wall, one year on

Barrier to protect village was supposed to be ready one year ago, so residents are relieved Typhoon Usagi was relatively kind to them

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 4:41am

Typhoon Usagi might have spared them, but Tai O residents are still worried about what might happen next time if a levee meant to protect their homes from flooding is not finished.

The wall, which was supposed to be finished a year ago, was proposed as part of a revitalisation plan after the fishing village on Lantau was swamped by floodwater up to three metres high when Typhoon Hagupit hit the city in 2008.

On Sunday night, water at Tai O rose quickly to the floor level of some of the stilt houses when a tidal flow aggravated by Usagi struck at about 11.30pm.

But there was little damage in the village.

"Of course we'd like to see the wall completed as soon as possible," said Yip Oi-keung, who lives in Tai Ping Street. "You never know when another big tide is coming, so we should be well prepared."

A 3.3-metre wall to run for 220 metres is meant to protect the houses in the low-lying area of Tai O along Wing On Street and Tai Ping Street.

The HK$151 million project, including the construction of an associated drainage and sewerage system, started in the summer of 2010 and was expected to be completed last September.

Lee Chi-fung, chairman of the Tai O rural committee, said they had repeatedly urged officials to complete the wall.

The officials had told them the delay was because "some vital construction materials have not yet arrived".

The committee originally proposed to make the wall 3.8 metres high but was opposed by green groups that feared the scenic attraction of Tai O's stilt houses could be lost.

The residents then agreed to limit the wall to 3.3 metres as the department agreed that a portable aluminium extension could be attached to the wall to make it higher when a typhoon was approaching.

But residents still doubt the wall would be effective.

They say there are still three gaps along the wall - two in Wing On Street and one in Tai Ping Street - because the property owners opposed it.

"The department suggested filling in the holes with water barriers whenever there's a risk of flooding, but we're not convinced they would be strong enough," Lee said.

On Sunday, sandbags were piled up to fill in the gaps and only a small part of the aluminium extension was completed. More than half of the wall was still a construction site.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Engineering and Development Department said all the main river wall structure had been completed in December, except for small sections that some residents had objected to.

She said the department had been liaising closely with all parties involved to develop an alternative scheme that would be agreeable to the residents and also serve the original purpose of the plan to protect the village.