Hong Kong unveils new measures to cope with extreme weather

The government’s strategy comprises four fronts: advanced preparation, enhanced early warning, decisive emergency response, and prompt recovery.


(From left) Commissioner for Labour May Chan Wing-shiu; Undersecretary for Security Michael Cheuk Hau-yip; Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak Mei-kuen; Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung; Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan Kwok-ki; Deputy Chief Secretary for Administration Cheuk Wing-hing; Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-ho; Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan; and Director of the Hong Kong Observatory Chan Pak-wai at a joint press conference on the enhanced strategies and measures to cope with extreme weather on May 16, 2024. PHOTO: HKSAR GOVERNMENT/CHINA DAILY

May 17, 2024

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government unveiled new measures on Thursday to cope with extreme weather, including optimizing train services under a No 9 typhoon signal, issuing more warnings to the public and enforcing penalties on storm chasers.

The government’s strategy comprises four fronts: advanced preparation, enhanced early warning, decisive emergency response, and prompt recovery, officials said at a news conference.

“Safeguarding the safety of the public is our primary purpose,” Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan Kwok-ki said in his opening speech at the cross-departmental media briefing.

Under the new measures, MTR train services will not be suspended immediately after the No 9 typhoon signal is hoisted. The operator will allow trains to run as far as possible toward their original destinations or stop at stations with enough capacity to handle an influx of passengers, such as those connected to large shopping malls, according to the authorities.

The change is a response to the embarrassing situation last year, when rainstorms caused an unexpected service suspension, leaving many passengers trapped at MTR stations.

As for the emergency response at the airport, Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung said the Airport Authority will set up temporary waiting areas between the Airport Express platforms and those of Terminal 1 under adverse weather, with chairs, power banks and enhanced wireless network provided for stranded travelers.

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The Hong Kong Observatory will improve early warning systems by updating its MyObservatory mobile application from late May through early June. The upgraded app will send special weather alerts to users when it is considering upgrading the typhoon signal from No 8 to No 9, and additional notifications will again be sent when typhoon signals No 9 and No 10 are hoisted.

Secretary for the Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said it is worthwhile announcing early warnings to enhance public alertness, although it may lower the accuracy of weather forecasts.

Undersecretary for security Michael Cheuk Hau-yip said the government intends taking legal action against storm chasers as their blind pursuit of thrills jeopardizes their own safety as well as that of rescuers.

Noting that the government had conducted 35 mountain and water rescue operations in adverse weather over the past three years, Cheuk said some people had knowingly put themselves in danger and ignore the safety of people who were sent to rescue them.

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He criticized such people for against nature for their own thrill or fulfillment, stressing that the authorities have a right to close beaches and country parks in inclement weather.

Cheuk warned that storm chasers could face a fine of HK$2,000 ($256.30) and 14 days’ imprisonment.

Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-ho revealed a few of the advanced preparations the government has made.

She said the Drainage Services Department has speeded up about 120 minor drainage improvement projects across the city since the unprecedented heavy rainstorms in September.

The department is also working on 11 major drainage projects from stormwater drains to underground storage ponds. The projects are expected to be completed in batches from this year through 2030, she said.

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Linn said the department had installed additional warning signs in eight low-lying coastal areas, as well as on many roads at high risk of flooding, to warn people of the risks of flooding and remind the authorities to make timely traffic arrangements.

The department plans to pilot artificial intelligence technologies in Tsim Sha Tsui and Yuen Long later this year to identify flooding in the streets by using image analysis, Linn said.

Departments are making every effort to complete strategic inspections of slopes and check the condition of trees to mitigate the risk of landslides and trees collapsing, Linn added.

In terms of recovery, the officials said two interdepartmental drills have been conducted to familiarize public servants with the nature of remedial works after heavy rains.

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In terms of the cross-boundary emergency communication mechanism, Cheuk said Hong Kong and Shenzhen had agreed to optimize this at the end of last year.

Shenzhen will notify the SAR earlier on decisions about discharging water from the Shenzhen Reservoir in case of heavy rain, Cheuk said.

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