Beaches far from safe for clam-diggers

Visitors are exposed to strong waves and must clamber over rocks to reach Tuen Mun site

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 3:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 10:55am

The rocky beach of Lung Kwu Sheung Tan in Tuen Mun is strewn with torn fishing nets, plastic bottles, foam boxes and other flotsam and jetsam.

It is also a designated area for clam-digging, but an investigation by the South China Morning Post has found that it is far from a safe place to do so.

Kok Tsun-leung and Yip Shu-wun died at the beach while digging for clams in 2012.

They are among at least seven people who have lost their lives while out clam-digging or crab-catching on the city's beaches in the past two years, prompting the authorities to order an inquest to avoid further tragedies.

Watch: Clam digging in Hong Kong can be dangerous work, even for skilled diggers

The Post found that diggers at Lung Kwu Sheung Tan had to clamber over a rocky coastline to reach the designated beach area where they can dig for clams.

"It's very dangerous because the bottom of the sea is very boggy compared with other sites, which are sandy," said an amateur fisherman, who declined to give his name. "Also, the shore faces the open sea, exposing it to large waves at times."

The Coroner's Court has heard that strong waves often hit the area when cargo vessels pass by. At noon on Sunday, the Post observed up to five cargo ships sail past simultaneously. The waves at the beach were noticeably bigger and stronger, but there were no signals to warn visitors of the danger.

The Post also visited the rocky shore outside Tung Chung Hau Wong Temple and San Tau village in Tung Chung on Lantau Island, where another victim, Cho Mei-ching, drowned in 2012.

Although the sea there was calmer than at Lung Kwu Sheung Tan, it has claimed at least two lives in the past two years.

"[The Tung Chung beach] is relatively safe because it is linked only to a sea channel," the fisherman said.

"But it also depends on … how well a person can swim.

"It can still be dangerous if you go alone … Elderly people are more vulnerable," he said.

Diving club IDTC president Rommy Cheung Wai said diggers had to be aware of currents, tides and geographical conditions, and protective gear was vital as "skin is more likely to be cut after being submerged in water".