Landslides do not appear to be a serious issue in Hong Kong. With the last fatal incident some 12 years ago and improvements to standards of urban planning and maintenance over the years, the threat has often been taken for granted. But the hundreds of landslips reported annually mean there is no room for complacency. Officials in charge of slope safety are to be commended for maintaining their guard on this front. An early warning system is being developed to assess the risk of potentially deadly collapses following heavy rain. The index translates the risk of landslides into a number from 0 to more than 100, with 10 to 50 being high, 50 to 100 very high, and more than 100 extremely high. Regular updates will be available, according to the Geotechnical Engineering Office. Early warnings for landslides ‘possible with new Hong Kong index’ The Landslide Potential Index is an improvement on the previous system in that levels of risk are reflected in a numbered scale. A review of previous data found three rainstorms between 1985 and 2018 would have hit “extremely high risk” under the new model. The most severe, with an index of 126, involved the collapse of a slope at the University of Hong Kong in 2008, killing two people. The other two, in Kennedy Town in 1994 and Tsuen Wan in 2005, killed another six people. The retrospective findings underline the threats to safety. The city has experienced several natural disasters, including a series of tragic landslides in the 1960s and 1970s that prompted the then-colonial government to improve slope safety through a designated office. Living in a densely populated small area, 70 per cent of which is hilly terrain and with coastlines that are typhoon prone, make us even more vulnerable. As many as 470 people died in landslides in the 50 years following the end of the second world war and, with some 60,000 man-made slopes scattered across the city and hundreds of landslides reported each year, the threats cannot be ignored. A sophisticated and timely warning system is just one of the key steps to enhance awareness and safety. Officials believe the index may reduce fatalities by up to 80 per cent. But it can only be achieved when people thoroughly understand what the scale means and take the corresponding precautionary measures.