Hong Kong MTR

Residents fear for their safety as buildings shake and cracks appear in walls during MTR construction

Station work leaves flats without running water and homeowners asking why they were kept in the dark as buildings were sinking

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 2:38pm

Mary Chiu has been living in her flat in To Kwa Wan for the past 29 years, but about five years ago she noticed cracks in her flat widening and the water in her toilet cistern cutting out when she flushed – incidents that coincided with the construction of an MTR station in the area for the Sha Tin to Central link.

Still, even she was shocked to learn from media reports on Thursday that her home at 71 Maidstone Road had a bigger problem – it was one of the buildings in the area that had subsided beyond the statutory level.

Now residents are demanding that the MTR Corporation and the government take action to ensure their safety, and complaining that they had been kept in the dark about the problem.

Chiu said the crack in the wall of her flat had widened to the extent that a key could be inserted into it, while she and her neighbours had been forced to use fresh water to flush the toilet over the past few years.

But she said neither the government nor MTR Corp had offered to help, and it was difficult for residents to act collectively as the block did not have an owners’ association.

“Water supply is already a big issue, now we even need to worry about a possible housing problem in case the government needs us to leave because this building is deemed too dangerous to live in. I don’t know where can we go,” Chiu said.

Lily Yeung, a mother of two who has been living with her family on the third floor of the block at 284 Ma Tau Wai Road for five years, said she had to use different materials such as wallpaper and plastic sheets to cover the widening cracks in her house.

MTR Corp reveals 64 sites in Hong Kong being monitored for subsidence

“I could feel the vibration, the entire building shook [during drilling],” she said.

She recalled an incident when the family was unable to have their meals at home after dust fell onto their dishes from the cracks in the ceiling when the building shook.

Yeung expressed disappointment over what she said was the government’s lax supervision of the project.

“This issue is affecting a lot of people. To us, housing is our biggest concern,” she said.

Tong Lin-lai, 69, who has been living in a flat she owns in Mai Lok Building on Ma Tau Wai Road over the past 40 years also feared that her building would become too dangerous to live in.

“Both the government and MTR Corporation are responsible [for the problem],” she said. “I hope the government will tighten its supervision of MTR and check the safety of the buildings.”

In a statement issued late on Thursday, the MTR said: “The excavation works and main structures for To Kwa Wan Station were completed by the end of 2016, and the main civil works were completed in 2017.

“The settlement level of the buildings and underground utilities along the alignment has stabilised since the completion of excavation, and the tilting ratios are within requirements. Safety remains unaffected.”

The company added that safety had always been its first priority.