Despite typhoons being part and parcel of life during rainy season in Hong Kong, typhoon Mangkhut has been particularly nasty. From scores of cancelled and rescheduled flights to widespread destruction and health hazards, the clean-up will be a long and arduous process. This has been made even more difficult by residents who have claimed that the city is neglecting it’s duties and debris that has been left to rot is now proving to be a hazard to the residents of certain Hong Kong neighbourhoods.
Residents of Shek O Beach has been loudly complaining that the Leisure and Culture Services Department have neglected their duties but the LCSD have shouted back even louder, claiming that the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are responsible. In turn, the FEHD have replied that the LCSD should have oversight.
Things aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. Many residents have uploaded videos and photos to social media demonstrating just how dangerous the leftover debris is and how damaged their homes are. Some are even beginning to take matters into their own hands and have begun the clean-up operation by themselves, despite lacking the machinery needed to do some of the heavy lifting.
This comes after the news that many public transport services were delayed in resuming services. Bus companies had suspended many of their routes and it was unclear when they would begin servicing certain areas again. Many ferry operators were also under pressure to resume sailing but were unable to start services in full. The same was also said for rail companies, who were also operating below full service.
However, it is incredible that more severe damage was not inflicted. Residents were forced to remain indoors for an entire day, as the storm was elevated to a category 10, and there is nothing quite like looking out of the window and seeing skyscrapers sway as storm-force winds battered the city. Windows were smashed, scaffolding was blown down and various buildings under construction suffered severe damage, including one whose lift shaft collapsed during the storm.
Emergency hotlines have been busy all week with reports of fallen trees and more than two dozen neighbourhoods were left entirely flooded, including Tai O on Lantau which had to be entirely evacuated. The sea level in Tsim Sha Tsui was the highest it had been during typhoon season for quite some time, soaring over four times the usual level. Several important tunnels and thoroughfares in the city were also closed or blocked, including Aberdeen tunnel, Lockhart Road and Kam Sheung Road.
This chaos has left many commuters and residents extremely frustrated and quite often, stranded. With over 600 blockages and only a handful having been cleared, it is going to be quite the job, before services can begin to resemble anything close to normality. Major highways have been cleared first for those commuting for work but many traffic lights have been damaged, making the journey to and from work somewhat perilous. It also goes without saying that traffic jams are to be expected and will be quite spectacular.
Many residents have expressed dissatisfaction at being left stranded, as many rail services remain suspended. Companies have been accused of abandoning travellers without shuttle buses even as trains were being cancelled throughout the week. Many commuters were left at interchanges as information was not forthcoming and waits were up to one hour. In fact, many social media users in Hong Kong were confronted with videos, stories and photos of queues that stretched from the platform, out the entrance and down the street for hundreds of metres. Many workers were left frustrated by lack of communication and what they saw as minimal efforts to clean the debris. Some even complained that the government should have called for a half-day for those who work in the city. The government has since replied to this, claiming that they do not have authority to interfere in contracts between employers and employees.
Hopefully by the time of reading this post, services will have begun to resume with more regularity and some of the chaotic scenes that have been demonstrated around the islands will be on the decrease.