23 February 2019
Fernando Chui and other top Macau officials express condolences to the families of the dead at a news conference on Thursday after Typhoon Hato wreaked havoc on the city. Photo: RTHK
Fernando Chui and other top Macau officials express condolences to the families of the dead at a news conference on Thursday after Typhoon Hato wreaked havoc on the city. Photo: RTHK

Macau leader apologizes for poor handling of Typhoon Hato

Macau’s leader, Fernando Chui Sai-on, apologized to the public for his government’s poor handling of Typhoon Hato, which killed at least nine people, injured more than 200 and left large parts of the city without power and water.

At a press conference Thursday evening, Chui admitted that the government fell short in planning and preparedness for the typhoon, and that lessons need to be learnt from the disaster. 

“In the face of the disaster, we admit we have not done enough, and that there is space for improvement,” Chui said. “I apologize sincerely to the residents on behalf of the government.”

Noting that Hato was the most powerful storm to hit Macau in 53 years, Chui acknowledged that authorities had been ill-prepared for what has turned out to be a catastrophe. 

The administration will review the systems and procedures in relation to disaster preparedness and improve the weather forecast system, the chief executive said.

Authorities will strengthen the emergency response and rescue capabilities, Chui added.

Meanwhile, he announced that he has accepted the resignation of the city’s meteorological bureau chief, Fong Soi-kun, in the wake of the disaster.

The weather chief had offered to quit after his department faced huge criticism for not raising the storm signal to danger level soon enough, unlike authorities in Hong Kong.

At the press conference, Chui and other top Macau officials bowed their heads during a minute’s silence, offering condolences to the families of the dead.

On Aug. 24, one day after Typhoon Hato struck the region with winds of almost 200km/hour, many families and businesses in Macau were still reeling from the after-effects, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Many citizens accused the government of not only failing to make proper preparations beforehand, but also moving too slow to help people get back to normal life after the typhoon.

Typhoon Hato prompted the No. 10 hurricane signal in Macau between 11:30 am and 3:30 pm on Wednesday, the highest in the city’s storm warning system.

Observers wondered why the weather bureau did not raise the signal sooner, considering that neighboring Hong Kong raised the highest alert shortly after 9 am.

If authorities had acted more quickly, some of the deaths and destruction could have been prevented, it was suggested.

As of Friday morning, the death toll in Macau due to the typhoon has risen to nine.

The casualties included locals, foreign workers and tourists. In one incident, two people drowned in a parking lot after they were stranded by a sudden influx of water and could not escape soon enough.

In addition to casualties, the former Portuguese enclave saw massive disruptions in power and water supply. Supply only partly resumed as of Thursday.

The government announced that the Macao Foundation will set up a relief fund worth 1.35 billion patacas (US$167.5 million) to help those affected by the typhoon.

The families of the deceased will get 300,000 patacas each, while those injured can each receive up to 30,000 patacas.

Residents who suffered broken windows or damaged doors due to the typhoon can apply to the foundation and receive up to 30,000 patacas in subsidy.

Families which suffered water or power cuts will get a refund of 1,000 patacas in their utility bills.

The Macao Foundation has managed to obtain more than 100,000 bottles of water and has sent them to multiple locations for distribution to the public in need.

Meanwhile, some private entities and aid organizations are also joining in the relief efforts.  

A coffee shop said it will give away as many as 4,000 sausage buns for free to typhoon victims, news website reports. 

While aid efforts are underway, some eateries were trying to take advantage of people’s suffering, with one outlet said to be selling lunch boxes for an outrageous price of 100 patacas per box.

In other typhoon-related news, a social activist has alleged that the government has decided not to approve any notification for assembly or demonstration on the streets before August 31.

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A picture circulated online shows debris lying scattered in an old town in Macau after Typhoon Hato. Photo: Deo Carmel Viste via Reuters

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