WHEN a tragedy occurs for which God appears not entirely to blame, there is a tendency to want to find a human being to hold responsible. The report into the Kwun Lung Lau landslide of July 23, in which five people died and three were injured, provides a timely reminder that errors made long time ago can kill today. The basic cause of the tragedy was a wall that was built too thinly about 100 years ago. When underground drainage systems started leaking, the soil in the slope became heavier, and heavier rainfall triggered the collapse. If someone had measured the thickness of the wall, whose width was misstated on drawings, or if repair work to the drainage systems had been under way, the tragedy could have been averted. However, no one had reason to suspect the thickness of the wall, which had stood for a century without showing any sign of weakness, and repairs to the drains were in hand. Government engineers are already checking on other retaining walls throughout the territory, in line with the recommendations of Professor Norbert Morgenstern, whose report into the collapse was published yesterday. The tragedy resulted from a unique set of circumstances, in which human error played only a minor part. Professor Morgenstern recommends regular inspections of underground drainage systems, which would be costly, but should certainly be carried out. Beyond that, the Kwun Lung Lau collapse has only limited implications for slope safety, but does have broader implications for the Hong Kong community. Professor Morgenstern suggests that as Hong Kong becomes sophisticated, it is becoming increasingly risk averse. He is right. Where death and disaster were once accepted as fate, people now know that many tragedies can be averted. Building standards have risen. There is a greater emphasis on safety, and taking risks with lives in the pursuit of profit is no longer entirely socially acceptable. Kwun Lung Lau reminds us that throughout Hong Kong there are buildings and structures such as canopies that were erected according to lower standards than now apply, and that corners cut a century ago can kill today. Professor Morgenstern's terms of reference related only to slopes, but the Government should take a broader look at the implications of the community's growing aversion to risk.