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Typhoon Mangkhut

Can Hong Kong prevent flooding during typhoons and superstorms? Government commissions study to help coastal communities

  • Development secretary Michael Wong says study is expected to take between 18 months and two years
  • Move has been prompted by Typhoon Mangkhut, which caused devastation in low-lying areas
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 4:53pm

Hong Kong’s development secretary has pledged to find ways to stop coastal communities being flooded, even when superstorms hit the city.

A month after Typhoon Mangkhut brought extensive devastation to places such as Heng Fa Chuen and Tseung Kwan O, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun said the government would commission a study into the issue.

The study, which will be handled by the Civil Engineering and Development Department will look into the impact of extreme weather on low-lying areas in Hong Kong.

“The government will examine different proposals to solve the problem of flooding caused by waves,” he said.

Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Hong Kong last month, was the most intense storm the city has ever faced. It uprooted thousands of trees, left hundreds of windows smashed all over the city, and caused serious flooding in various low-lying areas.

In the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung noted that since Heng Fa Chuen, South Horizons and Tseung Kwan O South mainly consist of private residential developments, it could be difficult for the government to take the initiative to reinforce its sea walls.

“So what can be done by the government in the waters to help these communities, and protect the safety of people there?” Kwok asked.

Wong said based on the study, which is expected to take between 18 months and two years, the government will come up with preventive measures, including improvement works and management initiatives, to make the city’s coastal communities “more capable of defending themselves from huge waves”.

“It might not be done near to the shore. It could be a very effective measure to [build structures] farther away from the shore to weaken the impact of the waves,” the minister said.

Wong conceded that on the issue of coastal flooding, the government had focused on studying or monitoring the risk of flooding caused by the rise in sea level in the past. Future studies will examine how waves ran over sea walls under the impact of strong wind as well, he said.

Stanley Ho Ngai-kam, who represents the Heng Fa Chuen constituency in the Eastern District Council, said the study needed to be completed sooner.

“If those officials are really making the residents’ priorities their own, they should at least have the study completed within one year,” he said.

“After the study, there will be more discussions, consultations and other procedures. I cannot imagine how many years it will take to have the problem solved.”

On ways to reduce the number of uprooted trees in future storms, Wong said the government will be issuing a guideline by the end of this year to help authorities plant the right types of trees in the city.

“It was not ideal in the past,” Wong said. “Sometimes it was OK to plant a certain type of tree in a certain place, but in a few decades’ times, the tree’s root had become too big or extensive for it to continue to grow healthily.