Typhoon and the MTR
Last week, typhoon Vicente blew Hong Kong down. It caused the first signal No. 10 in the millennium.
When the signal No. 8 is in effect, most bus routes stop operation while the MTR still gives limited service after the peak period. However, when the signal is raised to No. 9, for safety reasons, the above-the-ground lines have to stop service.
In the night between 23 and 24 July, when the signal No. 9 came to effect, MTR announced that all the above-the-ground lines would stop operation soon, except the Airport Express Line. However, a tree fell down on the East Rail Line, causing power outage before all passenger having been cleared, and passenger trains stuck on the line.
I am not going to comment on the passengers but I have to state that everyone has to stay in a safe place once the No. 9 signal is in effect. For MTR passengers, that place is probably the nearest station.
The fact that a power outage had occurred before the end of service was an accident. Normally, the passengers should be evacuated from the train and sent to emergency buses. However, in adverse weather, running emergency buses was not an option, and under near-hurricane wind, the train was probably the safest place for passengers to stay.
Actually, when the No. 8 signal comes in force, everyone should go home immediately. If the nature of the work makes this impossible, the workers should stay in the workplace until the typhoon is over. Actually, in the past, the KCR actually stopped service after a few hours when the No. 8 signal was hoisted. The current MTR practice is to continue limited service under No. 8 signal and stop above-the-ground service once the No. 9 signal comes to effect, but continue underground service as long as possible. However, East Rail Line (formerly KCR East Rail) is a suburban railway which is built along the hills, which makes it vulnerable to this kind of accidents, unlike newer lines like the Airport Railway. It makes sense to stop the above-the-ground operation a few hours after the No. 8 signal comes to effect, just as in the past. The longer the trains run under No. 8, the greater the risk is, and the greater the damage is if an accident occurred. In this power outage, I think that the MTR should even take a step further: wait until the No. 10 signal being cancelled before repairing the line to ensure safety, to give some colours to the passengers.
Typhoons stop societies. However, societies should be stopped in a sane state and resumed promptly when the typhoon is over.