Not enough water and shade at West Kowloon concert that sent four to hospital, revellers claim
Concertgoer adds inability to exit venue and return was significant problem
Revellers of an annual Hong Kong electronic music festival that saw four sent to hospital, including one who died, claimed the concert promoter did a poor job providing water and shade at the event to keep crowds cool in the hot weather.
As Road to Ultra took place in West Kowloon on Saturday amid temperatures as high as 33.5 degrees Celsius in nearby Tsim Sha Tsui, people faced long lines to get drinks and one concertgoer estimated “50 to 60 per cent” in attendance were under the influence of drugs.
“I go to a lot of live music events [not] only in Hong Kong, and relative to most that I’ve been to, it was pretty poorly organised,” concertgoer Stephen Lee said.
“It has a long way to go compared to international festivals.”
A lack of available water, a scarcity of areas with shade to stay cool and an inability to exit the venue and return were the most significant problems, he added.
“There were a lot of people that were definitely feeling [the heat],” Lee said.
Catriona Ip said “the biggest reason” she decided against going to this year’s Ultra music festival was her experience last year.
“I was concerned the organisation had not improved because the situation was potentially dangerous last year,” she said.
Ip claimed queues for drinks and water required up to an hour-long wait, with no shelter from the sun for those standing in line.
She recalled trying to get water for a woman who had fainted and a vendor refusing her. Ip said she ended up calling an ambulance.
Lee noted lines this year were not as long for those holding priority passes.
The Post reached out to the organiser but has not received a reply.
One concertgoer, who identified himself as Tony and dialled into a radio programme on Tuesday examining the event, said he was not aware of any water being available other than bottles at the refreshment stations selling for HK$50 each. Beer cost about HK$100 per cup.
Tony also believed about “50 to 60 per cent” of people at the venue were under the influence of drugs.
He said the odour of what he suspected was marijuana was prevalent and that people were openly “rolling” joints.
Ben Cheung Kin-leung, chairman of the Action Committee Against Narcotics, said drug use across the city had fallen recently, but admitted their presence was widespread at certain entertainment events.
In terms of curbing drugs, Cheung thought it would be impractical to thoroughly search everyone at the door. “I’m not a security expert, but at an outdoor event with 10,000 people going in and out, carrying out searches on everyone sounds a bit difficult,” he said on the programme.
He instead called for more to be done inside venues such as conducting patrols with drug-sniffing dogs, setting up additional rest stations offering water and even deploying social workers.
“The biggest worry is alcohol mixed with drugs, which can cause a lot of complications.”
A government spokeswoman on Monday said three of the party-goers remained in critical condition at the intensive care unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.
All three tested positive for drugs, a source told the Post.
Police found two small plastic bags, with one containing a red tablet and the second containing a blue pill.
The Post understands the red tablet was believed to be ecstasy and the blue pill was the tranquilliser Midazolam.
Recreational drug use is popular at electronic music festivals.
A study in 2015 by the US Centre for Forensic Science Research and Education found that of over 100 people who submitted to a urine test at an electronic music festival, 80 per cent tested positive for designer drugs.
“Drug use kind of goes with the territory for festivals,” Lee said.
Society of Hospital Pharmacists president William Chui Chun-ming warned that taking recreational drugs such as ecstasy could lead to severe health problems.
“The pharmacological effect of ecstasy is an increase in body temperature, and it causes dehydration,” he said.
Midazolam can trigger rises in one’s blood pressure and heart rate, he added. Other drug use complications include a loss of blood circulation and kidney failure.
Additional reporting by Ernest Kao