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Typhoon Mangkhut

Back to work hours after Typhoon Mangkhut, what was Hong Kong thinking?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 5:21pm

As someone who has lived in Hong Kong for 35 years, 20 of those in construction, I thought I might share with you some thoughts after Typhoon Mangkhut.

I currently live in Sai Kung and took a walk immediately after the worst to assess the damage. The amount of tree damage was staggering, like nothing I have seen before: a testament to the storm’s power. Anywhere the storm could possibly get inside homes and businesses, it did. The Sai Kung seafront was virtually wiped out. It seems many shop owners never knew or had forgotten what could happen here. Some of those shops were in government buildings.

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It was obvious that transport would be virtually non-existent on Monday. The road crews would need a full uninterrupted day to get things cleared. Experience taught me that businesses would insist everyone return to work on Monday morning. And that the No 8 would come down in time for commuters regardless. I was not disappointed.

There should have been a day off Monday. It was irresponsible, and counterproductive to do otherwise.

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With most bus services suspended, MTR at reduced capacity, Light Rail services suspended and ferries at reduced operations; just how did they expect the work day would go?

The resulting overcrowding could have proved deadly. The wasted time and disregard for their workers was sadly what we have come to expect from Hong Kong businesses (through government policy).

Construction-wise, Hong Kong has excellent regulations which have sometimes been eroded in practice in recent years, as we have seen on our larger infrastructure projects. It is my firm hope that each of the incidents from this storm be investigated and appropriate prosecutions begun. A forlorn hope, maybe, in the current political climate.

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If the current climatic trend continues, we can expect more of these kinds of storms. With this in mind, the government must begin to fully implement its existing building regulations, and not let the continual erosion of standards go any further.

Simon Dover, Sai Kung