Category Archives: Local News

Hong Kong’s barking deer still dying in catchwater drain that activists exposed two years ago

Protected animals getting trapped in concrete nullah on Lantau Island despite calls for action

Published: SCMP, 15 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

Hong Kong’s barking deer are still dying and being injured in the same concrete-lined catchwater drain that the South China Morning Post revealed was harming the animals two years ago.

The concrete structure between Tong Fuk and Shek Pik on Lantau Island remains a major hazard for the creatures, which have been climbing down into the nullah to drink water before realising they are trapped.

Four deer have fallen in over the past month, despite animal welfare campaigners having spoken to the government about the issue in 2015. Activists said at least two of those deer died from their injuries or starvation, while the others were seriously injured, often to their hooves or horns, meaning they eventually had to be euthanised after being captured.

Campaigners are furious that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has ignored their calls to build exits for the deer within the Water Supplies Department’s (WSD) catchment.

Jacqui Green, founder of animal rights charity Protection of Animals Lantau South, said three deer had been trapped in the catchwater within just 12 days.

“These gentle, graceful but extremely shy and sensitive creatures are a protected species in Hong Kong,” she said. “Almost two years have elapsed [since the group highlighted the problem] and these animals are still dying. It is very disappointing, and also deeply distressing for those of us actively involved with the protection of the deer, to realise just how little has been achieved by the WSD and the AFCD since our initial meeting in May 2015. These are protected animals and essentially all we are asking for is a serious commitment towards this aim.”

Kathleen Daxon, spokeswoman for Tai O Community Cattle Group, said it was getting harder to monitor how many deer were dying or being hurt in the catchwater.

“We have no way to know how many animals have died in there,” she said. “We are more than just frustrated. [Government officials] did not even do the upgrades they committed to.”

Daxon also expressed concern about the way government officials handle the deer during rescue missions.

“Our videos show how brutally they handle them,” she said. “In one case, they should have just left the animal to die there from the way they were handling it.”

Barking deer, known for their distinctive canine yelp, are a protected species in Hong Kong but, because of their nocturnal feeding habits, environmentalists have found it difficult to estimate their numbers.

In 2015, the AFCD said the government had put railings along the catchwater drain area to prevent animals falling in, but said the access ladders installed at the site were not intended to help the animals escape.

Workers at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden near Tai Po advised the government to put an adequately textured painted surface over the concrete, which would help animals to climb back out if they fell in. The farm has also suggested screwing small foothold blocks on the surface of the catchwater, or installing ramps. Some of the injured deer are being cared for at Kadoorie Farm until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

Paul Crow, a senior conservation officer there, said the deer which were taken to recover at the farm had been through “extreme stress” and most died after developing the muscle condition capture myopathy, which stems from the stress of being caught.

“This is an unfortunate situation that appears to have worsened in recent months and the exact reason for this is unclear,” Crow said. “The issue will not go away so there is an opportunity here to be innovative and develop solutions which can be applied widely in Hong Kong .”

Continue reading Hong Kong’s barking deer still dying in catchwater drain that activists exposed two years ago

Hong Kong hikers warned as death toll exceeds 2016 total in just four months

The latest casualty was a 60-year-old man who collapsed on Sunday while trekking through Plover Cove

Published: SCMP, 17 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

An alarming number of hiker deaths in Hong Kong has prompted experts to warn the public to take extra precaution when venturing on the city’s trails.

Five people died in hiking-related incidents on the city’s trails over the first four months of the year, exceeding the total of four deaths in all of 2016, according to the South China Morning Post’s records.

The latest casualty was a 60-year-old man who collapsed on Sunday while trekking through Plover Cove Country Park. He was with a group of eight hikers, who were close to Wu Kau Tang when he complained of feeling dizzy, before losing consciousness.

Dan Van Hoy, a leader with the Hong Kong Hiking group on social networking platform Meet Up, said he was particularly worried when he saw hikers not carrying provisions such as water, food or suncream.

He said he did not want to dissuade people from hiking, but urged beginner hikers to start by attempting easy trails with plenty of shaded areas and water springs before building up to more challenging ones.

“My suggestion would be for people who have not been hiking recently or who are over the age of 50, just to pay a little visit to your doctor – it seems to be prudent to check your health beforehand,” he said.

“In our groups, you always have people who are not experienced in hiking and do not come really prepared. Some people will tell you they ran the Standard Chartered Marathon last year, but I ask them what exercise they have done in the last six to eight weeks. I advise people to start small and build up over a period of weeks.”

Hiking-related accidents and injuries have increased in Hong Kong, as the pastime has become more popular.

Hiker numbers steadily rose from 12.2 million in 2005 to 13.3 million in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of mountain rescues more than doubled from 138 in 2005 to 357 in 2016.

Hikers’ lack of preparation, and a desire to take the best photo for social media, have been blamed for the worrying trend.

Tony Basoglu, another leader for the Hong Kong Hiking Meet Up group, said he was not surprised that hiking accidents were on the rise. He also emphasised that preparation was key to avoiding injury.

“As there are more and more people on the hills, it’s only normal that more accidents and health issues will happen,” he said.

“You always need to carry plenty of water and also drink, drink, drink. You just need to take appropriate precautions and go out and have fun.”

Basoglu said hikers should be particularly mindful to assess their physical limits before attempting difficult trails during hot weather.

“In [the latest] case, it was not an accident – it was an older gentleman and it seems he suffered some kind of health issue,” he said.

“I guess it’s due to heat and exertion, as it was quite hot at the time.

“It could also be that he was not in the greatest of shapes and the stress on his body caused his heart to give out. When we get to that age, we need to be much more careful about exertions.”

Shum Si-ki, who founded the Hiking Meet Up group in 2005, called on the government to start recording the number of hiking-related deaths in country parks to better monitor the situation.

“Particularly on hot days, not many people can cope in these conditions,” he said.

“I think the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department could start monitoring the death toll. Hiking is a major pastime of Hong Kong people and because it is getting more popular, the number of people getting injured it going to go up.”

85 Hong Kong hill fires reported during Ching Ming festival, three times last year’s number

The largest case was in Fanling, where a blaze tore through 250,000 square metres of hillside

Published: SCMP, 4 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

A total of 85 hill fires reported on Tuesday [April 4] – more than three times the number recorded in the same period last year – kept Hong Kong firefighters busy amid the dry weather during the annual Ching Ming grave-sweeping festival.

As the yellow fire danger warning remained in force for about 12 hours on Tuesday, the Government Flying Service deployed helicopters to fight some flames that broke out mainly in the New Territories.

The largest blaze was reported in Yuen Leng, Fanling, where about 250,000 square metres – roughly 35 football fields – of hillside land caught fire shortly before 1pm. Firefighters took about three hours to extinguish the flames, a government spokeswoman said.

Another hill fire, covering an area of 10,000 square metres, broke out in Tai Yeung Che, Tai Po, at about 10am. It was put out shortly before 11:30am.

The spokeswoman said no helicopters were deployed in both cases.

A helicopter was sent to perform a water drop when about 4,000 square metres of hillside caught fire near Shui Chuen O Estate in Sha Tin at midday.

The blaze was extinguished shortly before 2:45pm.

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From 8am to 5pm Tuesday, the Government Flying Service deployed its Super Puma helicopters on 11 water bombing flights in response to 16 hill fires.

No casualties were reported in the incidences, the spokeswoman said.

By 10pm Tuesday, 85 hillside fires had been recorded across the city, the Fire Services Department said.

There were 26 reports of hill fire during last year’s Ching Ming festival when an amber rainstorm warning signal was in force for nearly three hours.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the yellow fire danger warning – indicating high fire risk – was issued at 6am Tuesday and cancelled 12 hours later.

“It was dry in the afternoon. The relative humidity in many places fell below 60 per cent,” the Observatory said.

Ching Ming festival is one of two annual occasions when people pay respects to their ancestors by sweeping and burning paper offerings at graves. The other event is the Chung Yeung festival [October 28 this year].

Elderly hiker dies after passing out in Clear Water Bay Country Park

Victim fainted while climbing stairs and was airlifted to hospital

Published: SCMP, 4 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

Heroic Hong Kong fireman dies in Tiu Shau Ngam clifftop rescue drama

Yau Siu-ming slipped and fell while helping to save trapped hikers in Ma On Shan Country Park, then died 15 minutes after colleagues battled for 10 hours to get him to hospital

Published: SCMP, 22 Mar 2017
Link to the original article here

A fireman injured in a cliff fall while rescuing an off-duty policeman and his girlfriend died ­on Wednesday minutes after a heroic effort by colleagues to get him to hospital.

Yau Siu-ming, 50, lost his footing and slipped during an all-night search and rescue operation that began on Tuesday when the couple became trapped after getting into difficulty in a treacherous part of Ma On Shan Country Park.

The principal fireman was carried down in a coma but it took 10 hours for rescuers to reach Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin.

Just 15 minutes later, at 4.17pm, Lau died of head injuries.

Assistant Director of Fire Services (New Territories) Yau Wai-keung said the hikers had strayed off their original path and entered woods and streams.

“[The firemen] had to pass through rough trails, roads ­covered with wet and sandy rocks and bushes,” he said.

Thick fog prevented a heli­copter from approaching. Firefighters had to walk 4km to reach the scene, then hack their way through the trail while tackling slopes at an angle of more than 60 degrees.

Resuscitation was performed on Yau, who was married and had a six-year-old son, as he was stretchered down, but to no avail.

The Post learned that the ­hikers were an off-duty constable, 32, from the airport security unit and his 30-year-old girlfriend.

“I am profoundly grieved at the loss of this dedicated and ­gallant principal fireman,” said Director of Fire Services Li Kin-yat, sending condolences to the family of the “devoted comrade”.

scmp-hiking-rescue-fireman-fatality-photo

He said a funeral committee would be set up by the Fire ­Services Department to make suitable farewell arrangements.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok and Secretary for the Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching also offered their ­condolences. Chief executive candidates Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor, John Tsang Chun-wah and Woo Kwok-hing said they were saddened by the news.

The Hong Kong Fire Services Officers’ Association said: “The association is deeply saddened and will do our utmost to provide assistance to his family.”

Yau, a fireman since 1987, was attached to Tin Sum station, near Tai Wai. He helped to put out the huge blaze that killed two colleagues in an industrial building in Ngau Tau Kok last year.

The hikers had set off from Shui Long Wo in Sai Kung on Tuesday afternoon. The man called police at 6.56pm, saying they had lost their way in the dark and fog and were trapped on a slope in Tiu Shau Ngam.

Some 250 firefighters and 19 fire engines were sent to the scene. The firemen began heading uphill at 7.06pm and after a five-hour search found the pair trapped on a slope about 10 ­metres below a hiking trail.

Yau fell and was knocked out at around 6am. A helicopter was eventually able to pick him up and he was taken to a fire station in Sha Tin, then to hospital.

Veteran hiker Chow Kwok-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Hiking Association, said Tiu Shau Ngam was notorious for its steepness and slippery rocks.

“On a scale of one to five, the difficulty is 3.5,” Chow said, urging beginners to start in the morning and not to go out in bad weather.

The hikers were discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

Trail etiquette, a new breed of Hong Kong hikers and useful trekking apps

It’s still early days for our city’s country park visitors to grasp the green concept of bringing home one’s litter

Published: SCMP, 11 Mar 2017
Link to the original article here

The government is facing an uphill battle to encourage hikers to be more environmentally aware and reduce the amount of litter left in country parks, figures show.

In September 2015, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department launched its Take Your Litter Home public education programme in a bid to reduce the number of rubbish bins on trails. About 256 litter bins – almost half of the total number – were removed by the end of 2016.

Despite the initiative, the amount of litter collected from the city’s country parks has not drastically fallen; instead it has remained generally consistent since 2013/14, when 3,700 metric tonnes of rubbish were collected.

Meanwhile pictures of litter-strewn picnic sites regularly show up on social media.

A spokesman for the department said the cleanliness and hygiene of country park trails “had not been compromised” by the waste bin reduction.

“As it takes time for the public to internalise the green concept and get accustomed to the practice of taking away their waste, we will continue with our efforts in raising public awareness,” he said.

Hong Kong Hiking Meetup founder Shum Si-ki said his hikers recently worked with the department on six trails to promote waste reduction.

He said, however, that while the amount of plastic bottles had declined significantly, there was still a problem with discarded tissue paper on the ground.

“There might be a misconception that they are biodegradable,” he said. “But I would like to emphasise that people should take them home too.”

The government also advised hikers to avoid smoking in the parks, as discarded cigarettes can start fires. It also suggested hikers should not feed wild animals as they might be dangerous when approached.

As for basic hiking etiquette, across the world, it is generally accepted that if two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, then the group travelling uphill has right of way. Hikers are generally advised not to create too much noise with radios or mobile phones.

More Young Hikers

The average age of hikers on Hong Kong’s trails has decreased in the last decade, Shum said.

Growing numbers of hikers in their early 20s are venturing into country parks, whereas in the past most hikers were aged in their 30s to 50s.

“We are finding that a lot of the younger generation are hiking with us in the last three or four years,” Shum said.

“I think the Tourism Board has done a good job of promoting the outdoors. Hiking is less expensive than other activities; you do not need a membership. And in Hong Kong, it is convenient. You can just call up a couple of friends, walk for a couple of hours, then return home.”

App Assistance

  • TrailWatch offers helpful advice and GPS tracking for Hong Kong hikers. Established by local family charity the Wyng Foundation in 2014, it provides maps, distances, timings and points of interest for most of the major trails in Hong Kong. It also allows users to rate their trails, upload pictures of their journeys and make friends online with other hikers, similar to Facebook.
  • Hiking Trail HK offers a similar free service via the Google Play store.
  • Green Hong Kong Green, produced by power company Hong Kong Electric and a non-governmental organisation, contains information and maps for eight trails which feature interesting eco-heritage spots.

How social media and lack of research have increased risks for Hong Kong hikers

Beware of solo hikes and a false sense of GPS-enabled bravado, as well as the need to bag bragging rights for that perfect outdoor picture

Published: SCMP, 11 Mar 2017
Link to the original article here

Hikers in Hong Kong are increasingly dicing with death by ignoring safety advice and embarking on trails despite being ill-prepared, experts warn.

According to statistics, the annual number of mountain rescues by the fire department increased from 138 in 2005 to 357 in 2016 – coinciding also with the growing number of hikers.

Data from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department showed that country park visitors grew from 12.2 million in 2005/6 to 13.3 million in 2015/16. Before that, the increase was even more dramatic – from 2.7 million in 1977, to 8.8 million in 1987, following a push by the government to promote the benefits of hiking.

When approached by the South China Morning Post, both the police and the government said they did not keep records of how many people died or were seriously injured in country parks each year.

But based on previous reports, two hikers died while on a trail in the first two months of this year, and four perished in 2016.

Some courted danger by entering restricted areas, taking photos on cliff edges, or not having adequate amounts of food and water, while others ran into trouble while hiking alone.

On March 12 last year, a man in his 30s fell 400 metres to his death from Lion Rock after reportedly balancing precariously on a cliff edge while trying to take a photograph.

In November last year, a 60-year-old man collapsed and died on part of a steep, unpaved trail to Sharp Peak in Sai Kung, despite signs in the area telling hikers not to proceed.

Shum Si-ki, who founded the Hong Kong Hiking Meetup group in 2005, which now boasts more than 19,000 members, said GPS-enabled mobile phones gave some inexperienced hikers a false sense of confidence that they could “find their own way”.

He said that after Sars hit Hong Kong in 2003, more people turned to hiking to improve their health and get away from the cramped city, but that “increased the number of accidents”.

He also said he had seen young hikers taking bigger risks such as balancing precariously on cliff edges to obtain impressive photographs of their hikes for bragging rights on social media.

“Accidents mainly happen to solo hikers, you must at least pair up,” Shum added. “On our hikes, we always ask people to be careful when taking selfies. We remind people that you either hike or you stop to take photos.”

Hong Kong Hiking Meetup grades its hikes according to difficulty on a scale of one (easy) to five (extremely hard). The group offers about three hikes on weekdays and 12 on weekends.

Shum added that dehydration and the varying weather patterns were other major concerns for novice hikers.

“Especially in the summer, humidity is high and you find people are not prepared,” he said.

Continue reading How social media and lack of research have increased risks for Hong Kong hikers

ICYMI: Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail closed until 30 Jun 2017

Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail

UPDATE: The cable car is back in operation as of June 2017, with the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail to reopen following the end of the month.

In case you missed it in the news, take note that the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail (and cable car) on Lantau is currently closed for maintenance work until this June. The exact reopening date presumably won’t be known until nearer the time. As soon as I hear something, I’ll be sure to post an update!

The cable car rope is due for replacement, and the rescue trail below the system needs to be closed for safety reasons. Ngong Ping Village, the Big Buddha et al., and other access routes/modes remain unaffected. For those keen on hiking up to Ngong Ping, the road access route is still an option.

SCMP: Lantau cable car to close for five months for renovations

Press Release: Ngong Ping 360 to commence Rope Replacement Project on 9 January 2017

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Lantau’s Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail closed until 30 Jun 2017

 


Silvermine Bay Beach, Mui Wo (public beach facilities and services only)

Also, take note that Silvermine Bay Beach in Mui Wo, Lantau, is currently ‘closed’ from a public beach facilities and services perspective until early/mid-2018. The closure is to allow for “improvement works”. The beach itself and everything else in the vicinity remain unaffected, including hiking trails to and from Mui Wo.

Press Release: Silvermine Bay Beach to be temporarily closed for improvement works

silvermine-bay-beach
Mui Wo’s Silvermine Bay Beach, ‘closed’ until early/mid-2018 (public beach facilities and services only)

 

See also the AFCD’s notice section on country park trail, road and facility closures/updates.

Hiker dies after falling down cliff on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

Accident happened as weather deteriorated over the city

Published: SCMP, 30 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

A man has died after falling down a cliff while hiking on Lantau, police said. [If the video clip below is anything to go by, the ‘trail’ was likely near vertical, so more like rock climbing than hiking!]

A search and rescue operation was launched by the police and the Government Flying Service at noon on Monday [January 30] after it received a report that a man had fallen down a cliff along a rough trail in the Ngong Ping area.

Rescue teams and police eventually found the 59-year-old hiker, surnamed Chan,who was unconscious and had sustained multiple injuries. A helicopter sent to airlift the man to hospital encountered challenging weather conditions.

Around a dozen rescue workers walked along the trail with a stretcher to help the man but he was later certified dead at the scene.

WATCH: Hikers near the scene

Conditions around Hong Kong deteriorated at lunchtime, but it is unclear if the rain or other weather conditions were a factor in the hiker’s fall.

Police confirmed they received a “request for assistance” around noon time. They added: “A man reported to police that he saw another man fall down from a remote location called Fung Yu Pik. Later on a man was found unconscious and subsequently certified dead.”

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and that the hiker had fallen from a height of 60 metres.

Continue reading Hiker dies after falling down cliff on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

Hong Kong hiker dies after being found unconscious at bottom of Tai Po waterfall

Police believe retiree, 56, may have slipped and fallen while trying to find spot to take photos

Published: SCMP, 20 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

A hiker died after being found unconscious at the bottom of a waterfall off Bride’s Pool Road in Tai Po on Thursday [January 19].

Emergency crews were called at about 4.30pm when the 56-year-old retiree surnamed Lung was found by another hiker.

Firefighters pulled him out of the water and sent him to Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po, where he was declared dead at 6.52pm.

Police believed he may have been trying to find a spot from which to take pictures but slipped and fell six metres into the pool below.

The Tuen Mun resident’s backpack and camera were found at the top of the waterfall, while his car was located nearby at Bride’s Pool Road.

Lung’s family has been contacted.