Give us a break, Carrie Lam, moaned weary Hong Kong this week as the chief executive, like a parent pulling off a warm blanket on a cold morning, refused to let the city’s workers have an extra day off to get over typhoonitus.
The city’s leader is entering Day 2 of heavy criticism for her decision to not designate Monday a day off to allow authorities more time to repair the damage caused by typhoon Mangkhut on Sunday.
The storm — the most intense to hit the city since records began, according to the Observatory — left a massive mess in its wake, with snapped trees and debris impeding traffic and public transport, leading to nightmare commutes, delays and over-crowded stations.
Only in Hong Kong are worker bees expected to show up at work the day after the most powerful super-typhoon ravages the city. It boggles the mind why the government didn’t declare a clean-up day so millions won’t be caught in a mass migration to get to work. pic.twitter.com/WGhVFJoHxh
— Jason Y. Ng (@jasonyng) September 17, 2018
One frustrated and suited up commuter surnamed Chin told i-Cable news that he left home at 7am on Monday and hours later was stuck at the exit of Fanling MTR station, which was still yet to open.
“I went around asking MTR staff what was going on, and no one could give me an answer,” said the well-dressed Chin.
Yesterday, during a press conference, Lam offered the equivalent of a note from mom, telling employers to excuse workers for their lateness and please refrain from docking pay or dishing out punishment.
Unsatisfied, netizens flooded Lam’s Facebook page with comments demanding that she personally go and help with the clean-up effort.
“You need to help the victims of Hong Kong instead of expecting them to go back to work!” commented one netizen, typing with what we assume were furious keystrokes.
“It’s an international joke! Are the Japanese expected to go back to work immediately after an earthquake?” they added, possibly overdoing the comparison there a little.
“Speaking of ‘cleaning up obstacles,’ it sounds like you have some in your brain!” said another commenter, who likely immediately showed his pithy remark to co-workers and went for a high-five.
According to the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (Cap. 241), vast power is vested in the Chief Executive to manage emergencies, such as declaring suspension of work and markets following #SuperTyphoonMangkhut. But she chose crisis mismanagement over management.
— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) September 17, 2018
At the very least, others suggested, Lam should share their pain by taking the MTR, a perfect set-up for reminding everyone of the embarrassing time the chief executive tried and failed to navigate a turnstile at a train station.
“She doesn’t know how to use the MTR,” a commenter remarked, referring to the gaffe, in which Lam just stood at the barrier after swiping her Octopus card, seemingly unaware that the next step entailed walking through.
In response, Lam held another press conference today, defending the government’s response, saying authorities had not put any lives at risk and were working “very hard” to restore things to normal. She added, also, that the government would review its recovery efforts as a matter of procedure.
“The magnitude of this typhoon was huge, and the impact was very serious, so the disruptions to the public transport especially the East Rail and franchised bus services are very serious,” said Lam.
“I have personally made repeated appeals to employers that this is the sort of situation that we need more understanding, accommodation and mutual support. So for individuals who have difficulty in going back to work because of traffics disruption, the employers should express understanding.”
But while people were shaking their collective fists at the city leader, anger was also building at unscrupulous characters cashing in on the chaos by charging exorbitant rates for getting people around.
Stories being circulated, according to Apple Daily, include a minibus driver in North Point charging passengers HK$200 (US$25) to get to Mong Kok, and an Uber driver charging HK$1,488 (US$190) for a trip from Sheung Shui to Central.
For reference, a taxi or Uber journey from Sheung Shui to Central should normally set you back about HK$300 to HK$400 (US$38 to U$51.)
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom; some commuters even got creative and meme-ed away their frustration.
— isabella steger (@stegersaurus) September 17, 2018
And while parents may have been forced to work back in the real world, smug students hit snooze, as the the Education Bureau announced yesterday that schools will remain suspended for another day.
One place that’s been working overtime, the Hong Kong Observatory, meanwhile, began delivering their post-typhoon analysis, and the results were record-breaking.
According to senior scientific officer Li Ping Wah, it was the most intense storm to hit Hong Kong since records began in 1949.
“It’s maximum sustained winds once reached 250 kilometers per hour before making landfall over Luzon. It was also the most intense tropical cyclone over the west and north Pacific this year.”
Li noted that the storm was even stronger than super typhoon Hope in 1979, which left 12 people dead in Hong Kong.
He reminded residents to stay vigilant even though Mangkhut has subsided.
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