Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Power outage on Hong Kong’s MTR after Mid-Autumn Festival lantern lands on train

Power was cut to two Hung Hom-bound and two Tuen Mun-bound trains on Monday night

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 11:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 6:42am

A Mid-Autumn Festival sky lantern that landed on an MTR train may have caused power disruption on the West Rail Line on Monday night, temporarily halting four trains and slowing down services.

The disruption hit the line from Tuen Mun to Tin Shui Wai at about 10.20pm on Monday, when the system was packed with festive revellers.

Two Hung Hom-bound and two Tuen Mun-bound trains, which were hit by power cuts, were stranded on the tracks.

Pictures circulated online showed passengers stranded on halted trains that only had emergency lights on. Some passengers said that the air grew stuffy as the air conditioning stopped.

Announcements were issued in stations and trains about the power glitch. Passengers were told train rides would take an additional five to 10 minutes in both directions.

An MTR spokeswoman said that services gradually resumed from 10.45pm that night after repairs were carried out. Emergency lights and ventilation systems set up to provide fresh air inside trains operated normally, she said.

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She said suspected sky lantern material was later found on the roof of one of the four trains. The railway operator believed it might have been a cause of the incident. Further investigations were needed to confirm.

Hot-air sky lanterns are made of paper with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended. Many Chinese people, especially those in Taiwan, set them afloat as they symbolise couriers sending good wishes to the gods.

On social media, sky lanterns were reported in several villages including Tai Om and Ping Long in Tai Po, and Lam Tei in Tuen Mun on Monday night. In Tai Om, two sky lanterns were seen stuck on trees but they burned out without their fires spreading.

The MTR spokeswoman said before the festival that the company had posted notices to the public to remind them not to fly sky lanterns near the railway areas. It had also requested the concerned government departments help ban the lanterns around its network.

Locally, sky lanterns were banned on premises run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and areas managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

In the Mid-Autumn Festival night in September 2014, a similar incident happened to an East Rail train at the Tai Po Market station. Passengers had to leave the train and take another one.

On the same night in 2010, two East Rail trains were slightly damaged by falling sky lanterns.