Sha Tin shrine's slopes still pose safety threat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 12:00am

THE approaching rainy season could trigger landslides at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin, threatening the safety of visitors and residents, engineers warned yesterday.

A spokesman for the religious shrine and tourist attraction has criticised the Buildings Department for taking too long to give approval for repairs - which the monastery is responsible for - after an elderly woman was killed in a landslide there in 1997.

Engineer Rick Cheng Kwong-yip, a member of the Quality Building Management Association, retained by the monastery to monitor repair work, said the area was still dangerous.

'Nothing has been done to the two major slopes since the landslide, and they pose the biggest threat to the temple and the residents in the squatter area nearby as the rainy season approaches,' he said. 'Although two of the smaller slopes near the foothill have been repaired, the two high up are dangerous.

'The accident happened three years ago, but the two major slopes have been left untouched.' 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, 1997.

At an inquest into her death, Coroner Ian Thomas returned a verdict of accidental death but said there was growing concern over the state of slopes. He called for tougher legislation.

When asked about the delay in the slope project, monastery spokesman Ng Sing-tat, originally from Kunming, blamed his ignorance of Hong Kong's legal system and the bureaucracy.

'For the first six months after the landslide, we thought the Government would take care of the project, so we didn't do anything,' he said.

'But the Buildings Department should share most of the blame.

'It takes nearly six months to get approval. So we have not started.' No one from the department could be contacted for comment.

The repair project is expected to be completed before spring next year.