Thanks to our government’s precautionary measures and alerts, the recent Super Typhoon Mangkhut caused not a single death in Hong Kong, something that Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has considered a miracle and former Hong Kong Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying referred to as a world news story.
It is probably true that the administration does deserve credit for its disaster prevention efforts. Sadly, its poorly executed and badly coordinated post-disaster clean-up efforts have drawn a lot of flak from the community.
Many people blamed the government for the territory-wide chaos in the aftermath of Mangkhut. Hundreds of thousands of citizens had to desperately make their way to work even as bus, MTR and other public transport operations were severely affected by the disaster.
Some have argued that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should have invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to declare a public holiday that Monday.
However, there were some reservations about this suggestion.
If the chief executive had done so, it would have given the executive branch unchecked powers, which would run against the public interest in the long run.
Instead, the government should learn the lessons of Mangkhut and set up a disaster recovery bureau to oversee and coordinate clean-up and relief efforts following a natural disaster.
Scientists have warned that extreme weather conditions are likely to become more frequent and ferocious in the days ahead. The is also the growing threat of terrorist attacks on a global scale.
Given that, we should get ourselves better prepared for potential natural and man-made disasters.
Hongkongers had expected our “very competent” chief executive to work wonders in tackling Mangkhut, only to be disappointed at the way she handled the recovery and rehabilitation efforts following the disaster.
Many people had also expected the chief executive to visit the worst-hit areas immediately after Mangkhut to show to the people that their government cared and was ready to help them.
Yet, again, Lam failed to live up to the people’s expectations. It wasn’t until a week after the typhoon that she finally showed up in Sai Kung to inspect the relief work, which was, in my view, a bit too little, too late.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 29
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]