Sai Kung residents expecting to wind down as usual on a Friday night found themselves carting buckets of water home yesterday as large swathes of the peninsula ran dry for hours.
About 45,000 residents and scores of restaurants and other businesses were affected when a defective valve in a treatment plant triggered a widespread cut in fresh water from 1.30pm on one of the hottest days this year has seen so far.
The Water Supplies Department initially promised to restore supplies by midnight. At 12.30am the department said the valve had now been fixed and services would gradually return to normal.
The extensive supply interruption covered virtually the whole Sai Kung peninsula north of Ta Ho Tun near Hebe Haven, including the Sai Kung country parks, and outlying islands. The public swimming pools were forced to close at 6.30pm.
"Tonight is the beginning of a long weekend and we expect lots of visitors to come," Tony Chow, who owns the popular Tung Kee Seafood Restaurant chain on the waterfront, said. "But we will do our best within limits … Perhaps we can serve our customers cold beers tonight instead of tea."
Chow said they learned of the suspension at about 3pm and had time to deal with it before the dinner crowds arrived. No bookings had been cancelled, he said, but they would be careful in using water for cooking and washing.
The department turned off the taps after it found the defective valve at the Pak Kong Au Fresh Water Service Reservoir.
From seafood restaurants on the promenade to the golf course in Kau Sai Chau, residual fresh water in the pipes was gradually used up in the afternoon as temperatures rose to 33.4 degrees Celsius in the area.
Last night, residents were seen at the town centre carrying or wheeling buckets and even kettles to take water from five trucks that the department had deployed near the waterfront.
The department said it also dispatched 100 water tanks to individual villages. "The fault made it [impossible] to transport water from the water treatment plant in Pak Kong," a spokesman said.
The Pak Kong reservoir, which can store up to 15,000 cubic metres, supplies most of the fresh water in Sai Kung, except near Sai Sha Road.
Sing Kee Seafood Restaurant claimed to have spent thousands of dollars buying a hundred 10-gallon plastic buckets from nearby stores. "We filled the buckets from the taps as much as possible before the water in the pipes and water tanks ran out," restaurant manager Chan Chi-wai said.
The service suspension was announced via a government media release at about 2pm.
An aide of Sai Kung district council chairman Ng Sze-fuk said: "Once we got the news, we immediately rang the restaurants … I think some residents might leave the town tonight."