GRAPHIC media coverage of the New Year disaster in Lan Kwai Fong has caused a wave of guilt among people who were not even at the tragedy, and a record number of calls to hotlines. The Hospital Authority's 24-hour service at Queen Mary Hospital had received only seven calls by Saturday, but delayed reaction to the tragedy resulted yesterday in 24 more callers asking for help. Five were referred for further psychiatric help. Volunteer psychologists manning the Hongkong Psychological Society hotline had received 37 calls by late yesterday after only 13 hours of operation - more than it had received on the hotline set up after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June, 1989. Clinical psychologist Miss Mary Lee Wing-ming said only about 10 callers had been at Lan Kwai Fong during the disaster. Many of the rest had been traumatised by media coverage of the tragedy which left 20 revellers dead and more than 80 injured. ''Most were disturbed by media coverage, particularly television coverage showing corpses, bruised bodies and people with bulging eyes,'' she said. ''Many of the callers are depressed and upset but most have a feeling of guilt either because they were there but didn't help because they were in shock or didn't know what was happening near them, or because they were not there to help pull people from the crowd. ''Others were left with a feeling of powerlessness,'' she said. Miss Lee said the society had not set up a post-Tiananmen Square hotline until a few days after the event, but this had given them the experience to set up a service more quickly after the New Year tragedy. This could have led to the greater number of calls. A social worker who asked not to be named said fewer people could have called following the Tiananmen Square incident because they feared contacting authorities for help related to a political incident. However, Miss Lee said the increase was probably because the Lan Kwai Fong tragedy was ''more focused; it was very close so the impact could have seemed more intense''. Many people had feared their friends or family would be on the list of dead and injured. The trauma also had stirred unresolved trauma for many callers. ''The media coverage triggered off feelings about past trauma linked to dead bodies, accidents, loss of life or a feeling of a lack of control which people had denied during past trauma. It also made many people anxious to think about how life is so fragile.'' People should not feel guilty or ashamed of their feelings. They should ventilate their feelings to friends or family, or seek counselling, she said. ''People should realise even if they feel guilty it is a sign of their value as human beings,'' she added. Common post-trauma symptoms are poor sleep, repetitive dreams, flashbacks, heart palpitations, dizziness, numbness, feeling detached or agitated and nervousness. Symptoms more specific to the Lan Kwai Fong incident were crying spells, intense fear of crowds, a suffocating feeling, sadness, feeling powerless, shock or denial. She said people needed different advice but she advised many of those feeling guilty to acknowledge their feelings, then translate them into ''positive action'' helping others. The psychologists' society hotline number is manned by clinical psychologist volunteers on 8597036. It will operate again next Saturday from 2 pm until 6 pm. The 24-hour Hospital Authority hotline is on 8553144. Queen Mary Hospital emergency unit staff manned the hotline yesterday as an extra duty. A Social Welfare Department spokesman also said staff and services would be available to help families of victims on 3432255 or 3434411.