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Typhoon Hato

Weather bureau in Macau faces graft probe in wake of Typhoon Hato

Forecasting procedures under scrutiny after criticism over handling of Hato

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 2:15am

Graft busters in Macau are investigating the weather bureau’s forecasting procedures and management under the former director who quit last week after the worst storm to hit the casino hub in more than 50 years left 10 people dead.

The Commission Against Corruption on Monday said it had launched a probe into possible irregularities, prompted by a “large number of complaints” that raised questions about the Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau’s handling of Typhoon Hato.

The storm caught the city unprepared last Wednesday, leaving tens of thousands without water or electricity.

The crisis prompted the government to ask the People’s Liberation Army garrison stationed in the city to help with recovery efforts for the first time since the former Portuguese enclave returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999.

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Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on made a public apology a day after the storm and announced the resignation of bureau chief Fong Soi-kun.

Concerns had been raised that meteorological officials who failed to predict Hato’s ferocity may have held off raising the highest storm warning because of the financial impact of closing casinos in the gaming hub.

The anti-graft agency also revealed that it had previously received complaints against the bureau after August last year, when Typhoon Nida hit Macau but the signal No 8 was not raised.

“After investigation, although a gross breach of legal provisions was not detected, the Comission Against Corruption noted that there were some problems in the typhoon forecasting procedures and in the respective criteria adopted by the Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau as well as regarding the internal management of the same service,” the agency said.

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The findings were passed on to the bureau, along with suggestions for improvements.

The Ombudsman Bureau, under the commission, will investigate the handling of Hato and the results will be submitted to the chief executive.

Five days after the storm devastated Macau, life was slowly returning to normal on Monday following the resumption of power supplies, but the city still had its work cut out to clear up tonnes of debris left by Hato.