Hong Kong weather

Hong Kong frost chasers ridiculed: hospitalisations, arguments with police, 300 firemen and 8 helicopter flights to rescue them

More than 100 people got into trouble on Tai Mo Shan as 300 firemen and eight helicopter flights were mobilised

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 January, 2016, 10:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 11:36am

Scores of frost chasers who had to be rescued from Hong Kong’s highest mountain during the city’s coldest day in six decades have been condemned for risking lives and wasting public resources.

The authorities said they did not have the exact cost of the operation, which involved at least 300 firemen and eight helicopter flights.

READ MORE: Polar vortex hits Hong Kong: record low temperatures close schools, hospitalise 45, injure 111, trap 130 on Kowloon Peak

The fiasco also exposed the Fire Services Department’s lack of equipment for such a large-scale rescue.

More than 100 sightseers and marathon runners got into trouble on the slopes of Tai Mo Shan on Sunday, falling ill from hypothermia, injuring themselves in slippery conditions and becoming trapped on the mountain.

“It’s like they went surfing in a storm,” complained Wat Kit-on of the Fire Services Department’s ambulancemen’s union. “Departments had to deploy extra manpower to rescue them just because they wanted to have fun.

“There were actually many people needing help in the city under such extreme weather.”

Wat told the Post more than half of the “victims” were runners in a 100km marathon, which should have been cancelled earlier than it was.

READ MORE: Cold comfort: Hong Kong’s most vulnerable people forced to stay outside in bone-chilling weather

“Many of them suffered from hypothermia as runners do not tend to wear many clothes to stay warm,” he said.

A video posted online showing a woman defying police orders and trying to cross a roadblock was viewed by more than half a million people, many of whom condemned her behaviour.

“We will take responsibility. It is our decision to risk our lives. But you have a duty to save us,” she yelled at an officer in the video.

Internet users ridiculed people like her and condemned their “barbaric behaviour”, noting that the government had warned people to stay warm indoors.


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“They should not have gone up the mountain when they knew the weather was that bad. I don’t see any fun,” a Facebook user wrote.

“Should we use public funds to rescue those who don’t even care about their own lives?” wrote another.

Wat of the ambulancemen’s union said: “It is not fair to calculate or to comment if public funds were wasted. But what happened on Sunday could have been avoided.”

In further fallout yesterday, the Fire Services Department Staffs General Association called for more gear to better respond to such emergencies.

The union pointed out that firemen had difficulty even walking up the slippery mountain slope because their boots were not good enough.

Watch: Frost and ice hits Tai Mo Shan  in -5 degree weather

The department’s assistant director, Yau Wai-keung, defended the lack of equipment yesterday, saying the fire engines were equipped with necessary gear for mountain rescue.

But he admitted more special equipment was needed after first responders assessed the situation.

“The weather became critical ... We immediately transferred all 56 pairs of shoes with crampons from the warehouse to the scene,” he explained.

Yau said the challenges and weather conditions on Sunday were unprecedented, but that did not mean firefighters were not prepared for such a crisis in future.