The Hong Kong Observatory has defended its decision not to issue a red rainstorm signal – which may halt classes and businesses – after torrential rain caused flooding and chaos on the roads on Wednesday.

“We understand that the rather huge rainfall came down when people were going to school and work, that it caused inconvenience to people, especially students,” said Lee Lap-shun, acting assistant director of the Observatory, on a radio programme on Thursday.

“When we issue warnings, science and safety are our main consideration points,” he said.

Waterloo Road under heavy rain.
Waterloo Road under heavy rain.

Some criticised the Observatory for not issuing a red rainstorm signal as rainfall exceeded 50 millimetres over Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tai Po between 6:45am and 7:45am on Wednesday morning.

Lee said that the rainfall over most parts of the territory only exceeded 40 millimetres, which allowed the Observatory to issue the amber rainstorm signal but not the red one.

“The condition that, heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong exceeding 50 millimetres in an hour and is likely to continue, had not been reached,” he said.

Between 7:45am and 8:45am, the rain-band weakened and moved further to the southern part of Hong Kong, bringing over 30 millimetres of rainfall to the region.

Rainfall at 7:45am on April 13.
Rainfall at 7:45am on April 13. Photo: HK Observatory.

The Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers’ president Tang Fei said on the programme that the Observatory should review the system.

“They should have a forward-looking forecast that heavy rain was coming to the Southern China area soon, the system should include a warning that the red rainstorm signal would be issued in an hour,” Tang said.

He added that the Observatory should discuss the system with relevant government departments such as the Education Bureau and Transport Department, as well as schools.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said on the programme that it was important to follow current mechanisms.

“Hong Kong has two major warning mechanisms – for heavy rain and typhoons – and on these matters we should follow them if we have the mechanisms, if we think the mechanisms are flawed, unable to deal with current problems, maybe we can suggest modifying the mechanism,” Ip said.

Photo: HKO.

The weather will be cloudy and foggy for the rest of Thursday, with a few showers. It will turn rainy once again as Hong Kong heads into the weekend.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.