Hong Kong ushers in the new year with spectacular fireworks and street parties tonight. Like elsewhere in the world, hundreds of thousands of revellers will be taking to the streets for various countdown activities. With the town bustling with celebrations and everyone overwhelmed with joy, it is easy to lower one's guard and put fun ahead of personal safety. In the past, some occasions ended in tragedy, the most recent being the Lamma ferry collision during the National Day fireworks display. As we enjoy the festivities today, it is important that we observe safety rules and stay alert to potential risks.
The collision that claimed the lives of 39 people three months ago is a sad reminder of the lack of marine safety awareness. The city is still haunted by media reports of survivors testifying at a government-appointed inquiry. As the fireworks tonight are expected to draw a sea of pleasure boats and chartered vessels, as always, it makes perfect sense for the authorities to step up measures to prevent accidents from happening again. For instance, the Marine Department will send 110 inspectors to enhance safety compliance. This includes requiring coxswains to keep a passenger list and to ensure all children aboard are wearing lifejackets. The police will deploy 17 vessels to monitor sea traffic and carry out anti-speeding operations inside and outside the harbour.
The need for better safety awareness should not just be confined to revellers at sea. It is common sense not to drive after drinking, so is staying away from overcrowded places. There is always a risk when things get out of control. This was what happened two decades ago in Lan Kwai Fong, after people in a huge crowd lost their balance - chaos turned into a stampede that left 21 dead.
Maintaining safety at all times should be first and foremost for everyone. The last thing we want is our New Year's Eve remembered for another disaster. As we enjoy the festivities and bid farewell to 2012, let's not forget our safety.