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Transcript of press conference on Tai O situation (with photos)

Following is the transcript (English portion) of remarks of the question-and-answer session at a press conference on Tai O situation today (June 10):

Reporter: I'm just wondering why the Government is reacting relatively slowly this time around, say for example the heavy machinery is only used on the fourth day, today, after the landslide to clear the roads in Tai O. Why is the Government relatively slow in dealing with this incident.

Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Henry Tang: Actually, the Government has been extremely fast in dealing with all the villages, because it is an historic rainfall. It is the highest recorded per hour rainfall that we have never experienced ever since we have had records. Since Saturday, like in my earlier brief I have enumerated all the things we have done in the last three days. Moving heavy equipment is actually a very challenging task. As I have said repeatedly, safety comes first. That means we have to ensure that whatever equipment we move into those positions will not actually further endanger the villagers that live around those areas. So safety always comes first for us and that's why our first priority has been that we have to survey and inspect all the slopes that are in that area to ensure that safety comes first. The weather report is that there will be further rain in the coming weeks and we do not want to jeopardise the safety of the villagers. The action has been pretty fast and in some of those very remote villages we have already re-established the footpath that they have traditionally used for many years.

Reporter: I'm just wondering the government has actually failed to keep its promise for resuming water supplies for about four times already, so is there an exact timeline that you have that when the water will be resumed. I think that's the first priority that all the Tai O residents are very concerned about.

Chief Secretary for Administration: We share their difficulty. Imagine living in Hong Kong in hot and humid weather and that you do not have water to wash yourself everyday. We certainly share their grief. But we have to rest assured that the Water Supplies Department is doing everything it can to get water supply back to those areas that do not have it. In the meantime, we are transporting water to them by boat, by carts and by little water container - we gave out 1,000 five-litre containers of water in Tai O today. Water supply is a challenge, when we have re-established it, when we turned it on, and then something else broke along the line. Maybe I will ask the Director of Water Supplies, Mr Ma, to supplement.

Director of Water Supplies, Mr Ma Lee-tak:  We have been working around the clock to try and resume the water supplies system in Tai O. The reason that the pipes were broken by landslide, we have quite a bit of air and silt trapped inside the pipeline, and in resuming the supplies of water to the residents, we have to flush out these air pockets and silt from the pipeline in order to maintain the supplies, and during this course of action, other sections of pipe was found leaking, so we have to continue with our repair work. But you can rest assured that we have been working around the clock to try to resume the service.

Reporter: One more question. When I say water supply, I'm talking about running the water tap. When will the residents see running the water tap?

Director of Water Supplies: We will do our best, and in fact our contractors and our staff are working hard at the scene.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Issued at HKT 21:06


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