Ngong Ping 360

Havoc and devastation in wake of Typhoon Vicente

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2012, 12:00am


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The city struggled to recover yesterday after Severe Typhoon Vicente left it bruised and battered.

There was traffic chaos on the land and in the air and at least 138 people were injured, 71 of whom were hospitalised. A 43-year-old man was in a serious condition.

More than 400 flights were disrupted at Chek Lap Kok Airport, with hundreds of travellers stuck on parked planes for up to six hours.

Thousands of passengers were stranded in the airport as flights were delayed, cancelled or diverted. Commuters were forced to spend the night at East Rail stations after falling trees damaged overhead cables near Tai Po.

Some refused to leave the trains as they could find no other public transport to take them home. They also blamed the rail operator for leaving them unattended.

It was the first time passengers have been forced to stay at stations overnight in a typhoon, but the rail operator insisted that it had done all it could to take care of the stranded passengers.

'This was the best arrangement for the safety of the passengers,' said MTR chief Adi Lau Tin-shing.

Transport and Housing Secretary Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said he would meet MTR representatives to discuss the incident and said he had asked the operator to submit a report in three days. He said it was reasonable to shelter the stranded passengers, but believed better back-up and supplies could have been provided.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who visited Sheung Wan and Mid-Levels yesterday afternoon, said protection of public safety was always the top priority in bad weather.

'I believe the MTR can review this situation to see if there is room for improvement,' he said.

But lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo criticised the MTR for its lack of crisis management planning.

'It is the responsibility of the rail operator to provide emergency bus services when trains break down,' he said. He urged the MTR Corp to install barriers to prevent falling trees having a similar effect in future.

During the typhoon, a 23-metre yacht was found washed ashore in Southern District, while cars and minibuses were crushed by trees.

Vicente also caused an isolated power disruption or voltage dip in areas of the New Territories after power cables were hit by falling trees.

The Hong Kong Observatory hoisted hurricane signal No 10 at 12.45am yesterday, after escalating the warning from No8 to No9 at 11.20pm as wind speeds in the city hit the threshold of more than 118km/h. The strongest gusts, of 255km/h, were recorded at Ngong Ping.

It is was the first time the No 10 hurricane signal had been hoisted for 13 years, the last time being for Typhoon York, which killed two people and caused widespread damage. The No 10 signal was lowered to No 8 at 3.35am. At 10.10am this was lowered to No 3, as Vicente made landfall in western Guangdong.

But the city then faced another challenge as tens of thousands of commuters flocked to major public transport hubs to get to work.

There were complaints about the time it took to get on buses or trains and some said they felt they were being extorted by taxi drivers. Last night, about 70 bus routes were cancelled or diverted as dozens of roads remained closed.

Nearly 1,400 incidents involving falling trees were reported, including four valuable trees that required removal.

One was a banyan at the financial secretary's residence in Shouson Hill Road. Another banyan in Forbes Street in Kennedy Town fell down, crushing a minibus.