It was the strongest typhoon in history according to the Hong Kong Observatory. Winds reached 250 kilometers per hour. A vast stretch of the MTR from Tai Po Market to Sheung Shui was shut down. The Light Rapid Transit in Yuen Long was shut down. Both bus systems were shut down. Security Secretary John Lee reported 1,500 trees were down and over 600 roads blocked with debris.
When Hong Kongers woke up this morning all Typhoon and Rain warnings were gone. People had to go to work, but most shouldn’t have.
It would have been better if most stayed home. It would have allowed the 8,000 workers from the Food and Environment Hygiene Department to clean and clear sidewalks. It would have reduced the number of cars and buses on the road to give the Transportation Department time to clear the streets. Lastly, it would have been better for the MTR to devote all of its resources to clearing off the tracks instead of having to manage the swarms of people trying to get to work.
In the desperate need to get to work some got gouged. Spotted around Sheung Shui, was a mini-bus operator charging HKD 100 (12.75US) per person for a ride to Kowloon Tong. The trip usually costs HKD 10 (1.27 USD). Some taxis were charging four times the rate. All understandable in typhoon and post-typhoon situations but most of the people who need to go to work are the people who can’t afford these fairs and do not get reimbursed by their company.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who is a member of the Executive Council for the Hong Kong government, said it was impractical to expect the government to give the people the day off of work. “In a capitalist society, the government has no power to meddle with all the contracts between employers and employees,” he said
He is wrong. According to the Emergency Regulation Ordinance (Cap. 241), the Chief Executive has a lot of power to manage emergencies such as declaring the suspension of work and markets. Her choice was to put markets and money before the safety of the people and ensuring Hong Kong could fully recover from the typhoon.
The typhoon is gone, and it will take the week for Hong Kong to get back to normal. Tomorrow will be easier as more rail and busses come back online however we need to learn from this. There need to step if there is another typhoon like this and with the changing climate the chances are high, sadly.