Tighten slope laws: coroner

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 1998, 12:00am

A coroner yesterday called for tougher legislation on slope safety after hearing how a woman was killed by a landslide at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin.

Ma Shuk-fong, 73, a volunteer helper at the monastery, suffocated after being buried under more than 160 tonnes of mud, rock and trees on July 2 last year.

Coroner Ian Thomas returned a verdict of accidental death but said there was growing concern over the state of slopes, many of which had been cut specifically for the purpose of constructing homes.

'Artificial slopes are potentially a hazard,' he said. 'The time has come for slope safety . . . to be the subject of further investigation and legislation.

He urged the introduction of strict legislation to ensure that slopes were properly maintained by their owners.

'A simplified legislative framework should allow much faster work to be done on slopes that are not up to standard,' Mr Thomas said.

He added it was essential that owners 'maintain, inspect and repair their slopes regularly' and that relevant government departments inform owners of potential dangers at the earliest opportunity.

Ma was killed after persistent downpours around the time of the handover caused the crack-riddled slope above her Sha Tin brick house to collapse. It took firemen four days to recover her body.

The adjacent 60-year-old monastery, which once attracted an average of 5,000 visitors every month, was also damaged and has remained closed since the incident.

Monastery manager Ng Pak-wa said they did not have sufficient funds to repair damage to the building or the slope.

John Legge, a principal engineer with Halcrow Asia, said the slope was particularly steep and prone to collapse.

He estimated that repairs to the monastery could cost up to $2 million.