【明報專訊】AS GLOBAL WARMING tightens its grip, extreme weather hits different places in different ways. The night before last (March 30), the Hong Kong Observatory issued the black rainstorm warning, which is rare for March. What is more, over the past 26 years, there have been only four hailstorms in March in Hong Kong. The black rainstorm and the accompanying hailstones were therefore no normal phenomena, but were signs of extreme weather.
Like other countries and regions, Hong Kong must cope with extreme weather conditions in two ways. First, while things like rainstorms and hailstorms are beyond human control, Hong Kong must do its part in reducing ecological destruction. Second, with respect to what is within human control, measures must be taken to get Hong Kong better prepared for unexpected onslaughts of inclement weather.
According to the experts, Hong Kong's drainage infrastructure should be able to cope with heavy rainstorms expected only once every 50 years. While the rainstorm experienced the night before last was one that is not expected to occur more than once every 200 years, and places like Tsuen Wan, Yuen Long, and Tuen Mun in New Territories West reported rainfall exceeding 150 mm within a very short time, the floods were, according to Drainage Services Department director Daniel Chung Kum-wah, caused by rubbish that blocked drain covers. If Chung's explanation is true, there apparently have been management problems. Hong Kong is entering the rainy season soon, and if the government is able to learn from the black rainstorm we have just been through, it must take particular care to keep drain covers free from obstruction.
During the hail and rain storm, there appeared the "spectacle" of rainwater cascading from the ceiling of the Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong. It is preliminarily found that the "spectacle" was the result of drains on the glass roof being blocked by rubbish, such as fallen leaves. If that was really the case, it seems justified to say again that there have been management problems. For no "waterfalls" would have appeared in the mall if the drains had been kept in good order.
Judging by what happened during the rainstorm, there are several other things that should be taken into consideration in coping with extreme weather events.
(1) Though extreme weather conditions are difficult to predict, the government should not have failed to make a coordinated and trans-departmental response to deal with the damage wrought by the rainstorm. A trans-departmental mechanism should be established to take care of natural disasters.
(2) The rainstorm turned the Festival Walk mall into a "scenic spot", and crowds of spectators were allowed to gather and take photographs. There were even those who, without being stopped, tried to slide on the waterlogged floor. The mall management should have done better in this respect.
(3) While in terms of good management the mall should have asked people to leave and prevented more people from coming along, the public must be reminded that safety should be their first consideration under such circumstances.
Writing about the rainstorm on his blog, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urges the public to pay attention to safety, and instructs the departments concerned to take proper relief measures. We hope he will do more. If under his guidance a mechanism can be established to cope with unexpected natural hazards, Hong Kong will be better prepared for disasters associated with extreme weather conditions.
onslaught：a strong or violent attack
inclement：not pleasant; cold, wet, etc
spectacle：a sight or view that is very impressive to look at
Presented by lecturers of Hong Kong Community College, PolyU and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
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