Date
18 January 2017
Visitors to Tai Mo Shan slide down a slippery road after the coldest temperatures  in 60 years covered many areas in frost. Photo: Will Cho/Facebook
Visitors to Tai Mo Shan slide down a slippery road after the coldest temperatures in 60 years covered many areas in frost. Photo: Will Cho/Facebook

Rare winter spectacle sends people to mountains, prompts rescue

It was 60 years in the making and some Hong Kong people wouldn’t miss it for the world.

So on the coldest day in five dozen winters, they flocked to Tai Mo Shan to experience the big chill in action and see its outcome — icicles on trees and grass and swathes of snowflakes.

Frost has been rarely seen in Hong Kong since 1957 when temperatures were the lowest on record.

This past weekend, the cold snap drove the mercury to as low as three degrees celsius in urban areas and two degrees and below in  the New Territories.

With the chilly wind in their face, visitors to Tai Mo Shan who defied government warnings to stay indoors experienced the closest thing to a winter freeze.

A thin white film covered many parts of the highlands in Tai Mo Shan, Kowloon Peak (Fei Ngo Shan) and Sunset Peak, attracting hordes of people who were seeing the spectacle for the first time in their lives.

The rush triggered traffic jams and some people became stranded in the mountains, prompting a rescue operation by firemen, police and civil aid services backed by government helicopters.  

Some of the casualties suffered from hypothermia and exposure, according to Ming Pao Daily.

The phenomenon caught the government off guard, leaving it scrambling to deal with the situation, the report said. 

The Fire Department said it began receiving calls for help at 5 a.m. Sunday.

It sent 291 firefighters, 37 fire trucks and 21 ambulances and closed access roads to Tai Mo Shan five hours later.

At least 111 people, including several participants in a marathon, were plucked from Tai Mo Shan where grass temperatures were minus 5.7 degres celsius.

Sixty-four were sent to hospitals. A police officer who tripped during the rescue was treated for injuries.

By early Monday morning, the last stranding victim had been recovered, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

A police officer who led the rescuers said they had a hard time reaching the stranded people because the roads were frosted and slippery.

Rescuers could only walk up the mountain.

The Hong Kong Observatory warned worse conditions Monday in some places such as Sheung Shui and Tai Po which could experience freezing temperatures.

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TL/AC/RA

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