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Hong Kong weather

Hong Kong grinds to a halt amid rainstorm that leaves social media awash with surreal flood scenes

Cars submerged, floodwaters gushing through car parks, and complaints about poor drainage as heavy rain rip through city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 10:55pm

Hong Kong ground to a halt on Wednesday as the black rainstorm signal was issued for the first time this year, bringing downpour and flooding that left cars submerged and shop staff scrambling for sandbags to keep out rising water.

A surreal scene captured on camera outside Shau Kei Wan Market saw a taxi submerged up to the windshield by floodwater and the entire contents of the car left soaking wet – footage of which took social media by storm.

Pictures also emerged of water reaching a height of one metre at a car park in a residential estate in Quarry Bay.

The government had received 17 reports of flooding, 18 on fallen trees and three concerning landslides.

Shau Kei Wan was among the hardest hit areas. District councillors there said the flooding problem had been severe in the past few years, and that the Drainage Services Department should consider replacing its systems with those that could cope with downpours, or take steps to prevent drains being clogged with rubbish.

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“The flooding was serious last year, and has grown more so this year,” Shau Kei Wan district councillor Lam Sum-lim said. “Water was up to knee height along the tram line.”

According to Lam, the department told the District Council last year that the drainage system in Shau Kei Wan could handle heavy rain that happens “every 50 years”, a Chinese saying referring to rare heavy rain. He accused the system of not living up to the department’s promise on Wednesday.

He also said rubbish and tree branches had clogged drains, compounding the problem. He urged the department to step up work to unblock them and replace drains if necessary.

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Another Shau Kei Wan district councillor, George Lam Kei-tung, also said flooding in the area had worsened. He suspected the drainage systems had aged, and urged the department to investigate.

The Hong Kong Observatory issued a black rainstorm signal, its highest warning in a three-tier system, at 11.30am on Wednesday, preceded by an amber signal at 6.40am which was upgraded to a red signal at 9.15am.

The black signal was then downgraded to an amber one after an hour and cancelled altogether at 3pm, catching Hongkongers off guard in planning their day.

As was the case with previous rainstorm warnings, Hongkongers took to social media to ask why the Observatory issued the black signal when many officer workers had already arrived at their workplaces. Some jokingly asked if the Observatory’s button to issue the black signal had been malfunctioning.

“Now we are all stuck in the office. Happy now?” one user said on forum HKGolden.

Under Labour Department guidelines, employees working indoors should stay where they are when the black rainstorm warning is in place.

More than 50mm of rainfall was recorded in many areas of the city on Wednesday morning, with rainfall exceeding 100mm in Kwai Tsing and Sham Shui Po at its peak.

The Observatory forecast that it would be mainly cloudy with a few showers on Thursday.