LCQ6: Flooding problem in the Central and Western District

Following is a question by the Hon Choy So-yuk and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 25):


It has been reported that on the second day upon his assumption of office in 2005, the Chief Executive visited the Central and Western ("C&W") District, which was then affected by serious flooding, and extended sympathy to the business operators. He pointed out that the Government was concerned about the incident and he had urged the Drainage Services Department ("DSD") to expedite the flood protection works in order to reduce the risk of flooding in future. Last year, the Government also spent over $200 million on the implementation of a drainage improvement works project in the district. However, after the downpour on the seventh of this month, Sheung Wan was still hard hit and the water level there was once chest high. Many dried seafood shops in the district suffered losses of millions of dollars, as their expensive ginseng and dried seafood were totally soaked in water. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will investigate the above flooding incident to find out if human negligence was involved; if it will, of the details, and if the investigation outcome indicates that human negligence was involved, whether it will consider compensating the affected business operators; if investigation will not be conducted, the reasons for that;
(b) given that the problem of flooding has been troubling business operators of the C&W District, and it has been reported that the stormwater interception drains laying works carried out in the C&W District by DSD can only divert 30% of stormwater, it is expected that the problem of flooding at the district can only be completely solved after the commissioning of the Sheung Wan stormwater pumping station next year, whether DSD had implemented relevant preventive or temporary measures in advance before the torrential rain on the seventh of this month; if it had, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and what short-term and long-term measures the authorities have in place to avoid similar serious flooding incidents in the C&W District during the rainy season this year and in future; and
(c) whether senior government officials have, after the above flooding incident, visited the district to understand the situation; if they have, of the precise time of such visits and the officials involved; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

In the morning of June 7, 2008, Hong Kong witnessed a record high of widespread rainfall. On that day we received a total of 622 flooding complaints and 130 landslide reports.

My reply to Hon CHOY' s three-part question about flooding in Sheung Wan on that day is as follows:

(a) The area around Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan is low-lying and is only 2.64 metres above the principal datum at its lowest. The existing stormwater drainage system within the area was built decades ago and does not meet the current standards. As such, the area is prone to serious flooding during heavy rains and high tides. The Government has been actively improving and upgrading the stormwater drainage system there and implemented preventive measures, including those that ensure proper functioning of the existing drainage system, and an alert mechanism to prompt business operators and residents to take precautions against flooding. On June 7, the particularly heavy rainstorm coincided with a high tide in the morning. The sea level reached 2.5m above the principal datum at its highest. This is close to the lowest point of the low-lying area of the Wing Lok Street area. Serious flooding resulted.
  Before the rainstorm, the Drainage Services Department (DSD) had stepped up clearing the drainage system of the Wing Lok Street area and downstream, to ensure its proper functioning. In fact, the DSD had thoroughly cleared the drains of sediments before the onset of the rainy season. The DSD also conducts monthly inspection and clearing of the drainage system in the Wing Lok Street area during the rainy season from now to October.
  On June 7, the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) issued the Amber rainstorm warning at 5:15am. The DSD issued the Amber rainstorm warning message at 5:22am. Subsequently when the HKO issued the Red rainstorm warning at 5:55am, the DSD sent out the message of “flooding in Sheung Wan” at 5:59am. This is in accordance with an alert mechanism put in place in April 2006. The system issues an alert message of rainstorm or flooding, as appropriate, to registered business operators/residents, for timely precautions against flooding whenever there is a high tide, a typhoon or rainstorm warning from the HKO. Currently, a total of 400 business operators and residents have registered with the DSD for receipt of the messages.
  On June 7, after the HKO had issued the Amber rainstorm warning at 5:15am, a DSD emergency team arrived at the Wing Lok Street area within one hour at 6am to check and clear the drainage inlets. The team comprised five workers equipped with tools such as high-pressure water jets and pumps.
  As the DSD had already taken actions to minimise flooding at Wing Lok Street under the particularly heavy rainstorm in accordance with established guidelines, we do not consider that human negligence was involved in the incident.
(b) To tackle Sheung Wan' s flooding problem more effectively, we need to start with reinforcing the flood prevention infrastructure. In this connection, we launched the Drainage Improvement in Northern Hong Kong Island - Intercepting Drains at Queen's Road Central project in March 2006 at an estimated cost of $46.3 million. The project includes laying intercepting drains along Queen’s Road Central and Gilman’s Bazaar with a view to collecting and diverting flows from upstream of the Wing Lok Street area to a newly constructed box culvert at Gilman’s Bazaar for discharging into the sea. The intercepting drains, which have been operational since late April 2008, diverts about 30% of stormwater from getting into the Wing Lok Street area. We have also launched the Drainage Improvement in Northern Hong Kong Island – Sheung Wan Stormwater Pumping Station project in June 2006 at an estimated cost of $177.6 million. The project includes constructing an underground stormwater pumping station with a 9,000 cubic metre flood storage tank. The flood control tank collects the stormwater from the Wing Lok Street area from which it is pumped into Victoria Harbour. The project has moved to top gear and is expected to complete before the rainy season in 2009. It would then alleviate the flooding problem in Sheung Wan.
  Before the completion of these projects, we will continue to adopt stringent preventive measures. Based on the experience gained during the rainstorm on June 7, the DSD will deploy more emergency teams to the areas around Wing Lok Street to clear blocked drainage inlets in times of rainstorm. Apart from immediately deploying the first emergency team after the Amber rainstorm warning is issued, two more teams will be mobilised in succession when the rainstorm warning is upgraded to Red and subsequently Black. An engineering truck will also be stationed at the junction of Wing Lok and Morrison Streets when a Black rainstorm warning is issued, to provide instant assistance to business operators.
To resolve more completely the flooding problem in the Sheung Wan area and Hong Kong Island West, we are investing over $3 billion in the Drainage Improvement in Northern Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong West Drainage Tunnel project with a view to intercepting and discharging directly the stormwater from the upstream catchments between Tai Hang and Pokfulam into the sea, thereby reducing the volume of stormwater entering the lower catchments. Construction works have commenced in November 2007 for completion in early 2012. Moreover, the Drainage Improvement in Northern Hong Kong Island - Western Lower Catchment Works project is set to start by the end of 2008 at a cost of over $370 million. The project aims at improving drains that have aged or with inadequate flood conveyance capacity in Wan Chai and Central and Western Districts. The works will be carried out in phases for completion by late 2012. When the above drainage improvement works come into operation, the risk of flooding in Northern Hong Kong Island will be greatly diminished.
(c) The Director of Drainage Services (D of DS) and the District Officer of Central and Western District visited the Wing Lok Street area of Sheung Wan in the afternoon of June 7, the day of the rainstorm. On the following day, i.e. Sunday, June 8, together with the D of DS and the Assistant District Officer of Central and Western District, I inspected Wing Lok Street and visited five to six shops in the afternoon in order to understand how they were affected by the flooding and listen to the operators' views.

Ends/Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Issued at HKT 18:24