INDEPENDENT legislator Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien called yesterday for an inter-departmental inquiry into the spate of deaths during the Lunar New Year cold spell. 'I find it very shocking that this happened in such a prosperous society,' said Mrs Wong, a former secretary for health and welfare. A special meeting of the Legislative Council welfare services panel today will discuss services for street-sleepers and the elderly. 'We must pull ourselves together. I don't know why people use the analogy of 'a car crash killing all the passengers' when criticising the Government for spending too much on welfare. The recent spate of deaths proves we need much, much more,' Mrs Wong said. She was referring to a comment last year by Joint Liaison Group mainland member Chen Zuo'er on welfare spending. He said government spending was like a car that ran out of control killing all those on board. Mrs Wong asked whether the Government had adopted any proposals in a report on the elderly which she submitted to the Governor in August 1994 when she was in the civil service. A foundation should be set up to help non-government organisations improve facilities for the elderly such as installing more alarm bells at housing units for the single elderly. There are more than 1,000 street-sleepers and about 80,000 elderly single people in the territory. Mrs Wong was joined by legislators representing diverse political interest in attacking the Government. Their criticism centred around 'slow reaction', 'inadequate preparations' and 'administrative inflexibility' to the deaths. In anticipation of the cold, they said the Government should have offered home help for elderly single people in housing estates. They said the Home Affairs Department, the Housing Authority and the Social Welfare Department should draw up contingency measures for the future. Panel members asked whether street-sleepers would know which community centres were open and where they were. It was unreasonable to expect street-sleepers to leave the shelters at 7 am when they closed. Chan Yuen-han, legislator from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said: 'The Government has every detail of where the street-sleepers are. They should have persuaded street-sleepers not to stay outdoors.'