EXTREME WEATHER

Festival Walk slowly recovering from ‘unprecedented torrential rainfall’

While some stores have suffered damage, most of the mall has returned to normal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 1:26pm

It's back to normal for Festival Walk, three days after a freak rainstorm barraged the glitzy Kowloon Tong mall.

Sunday's unexpected black rain left the food court and several shops in Festival Walk's north zone drenched in a soaking flood that disabled six of the mall's escalators and cascaded across store floors.

Media reports originally indicated that chunks of hail had crashed through the mall's ceiling, but management confirmed a section of pipe that had burst was the actual culprit.

"The flood was caused by the unprecedented torrential rainfall," said Cindy Chow, CEO of Mapletree Greater China Commercial Trust, owners of Festival Walk. "Tremendous water pressure damaged a pipe, and the pipe burst and water overflowed and flooded parts of the building."

Festival Walk staff mobilised to handle the disaster and evacuate customers, though not before photographs of mall "waterfalls" began to go viral on social media.

Thanks to vacuum water sucking machines that were used overnight, the flood was mopped up in about twelve hours.

Three days after the crisis, there is little sign of flooding in Festival Walk, except for a broken ceiling panel that collapsed under water pressure and a few drying areas that are cordoned off from customers.

Stores affected by the rainstorm have also all re-opened, although some, like Chinese restaurant Wang Jia Sha, suffer from damage to the decor and exhaust pipes that will take about three months to fully repair.

"This was an unexpected accident," Wang Jia Sha managing director Karen Ko said in a statement. "But the management team took speedy action and most of the damage was minimised... Because of their efficiency, nobody was injured."

Wang Jia Sha spokespersons confirmed that there had been about two hundred people in the vicinity of the restaurant at the time of the disaster.

Other Festival Walk tenants experienced lesser damage. The general manager of the mall's Fancl House cosmetics branch said that some crates of storeroom stock had been ruined due to water leakage, but most of the store's merchandise was undamaged.

"We put towels, cotton balls and trash bags that we bought from the supermarket outside to soak up all the water," said Psyche Shek, retail manager of fashion retailer Joyce. "We removed all clothes in drawers and put them into our back room storage... This is our general contingency plan to protect merchandise."

The Festival Walk building is insured for property damage, business interruption and third party liability, CEO Chow said, adding that the mall had stepped up safety inspections since the incident and could not be accused of poor maintenance.

"We have monthly and annual inspections of the piping system," Chow said. "This incident was not something we ever would have imagined. Nevertheless, we want to make sure that our piping system is in place to withstand extreme weather conditions."

Festival Walk's technical team is currently reviewing the building with the help of a third party structural consultant, and plans are in place to strengthen the entirety of the mall's piping and coupling system.

"We don't think that the flood crisis will cause customer drop-off in the long run," Chow added.