Recovery efforts are underway in Hong Kong following a record-breaking rainstorm, with civil servants mobilised as part of an emergency response unit and a body found by drainage workers during a river clearance in the New Territories.

floods aftermath clean up
Members of the government’s emergency response unit carrry out clean-up work on Lo Wu Station Road on Sept 9, 2023. Photo: GovHK.

Workers from the Drainage Services Department were clearing a channel on Saturday morning when they found a body, local media reported. Police said the man, in his 50s, was certified dead at the scene in Lok Ma Chau.

The discovery came as Hong Kong assessed the aftermath of a severe rainstorm that brought flash floods and landslides to the city on Thursday night and Friday. The storm prompted authorities to issue the Black rainstorm warning – the highest rainstorm alert – for a record-breaking 16 hours.

Authorities said 158.1 millimetres of rainfall was recorded by the Observatory in the hour after the warning was raised, a record high.

Earlier, it was reported that at least two people died on Friday. Police said that afternoon that a person was found in the harbour near Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan, and separately, a person fell into the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter. The latter case was being investigated as a suicide.

Local media outlets also reported on Friday that a man was washed away in Sha Tin in the early hours of the morning, triggering a search operation by different government departments.

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A car on a flooded street on Sept. 8, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

On Saturday, the government deployed around 250 civil servants to the North District through an emergency mobilisation mechanism to assist in frontline clean-up efforts. The mechanism was initiated by Chief Executive John Lee last year to enhance the government’s emergency response capability.

The civil servants who were mobilised came from different departments, among them the Department of Justice, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and the Department of Health, local media reported. They went to areas including Fanling and Ta Kwu Ling.

According to Chief Secretary Eric Chan, the civil servants cleared floodwaters and debris from Lo Wu Village in Ta Kwu Ling.

“With the hard work of government personnel, villagers and volunteers, the roads have largely been cleared and reopened,” Chan wrote in a Chinese Facebook post at around noon on Saturday.

Subway stations reopened

Across the city, public transportation had gradually resumed by Saturday with most buses and trains back in service after being impacted by the Black rainstorm warning.

Services on the Kwun Tong line, however, were temporarily suspended again on Saturday morning following a power cable fault at Wong Tai Sin MTR station. The disruption was due to water dripping from the tunnel ceiling, the MTR Corporation said.

Flooding at Temple Mall in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, on September 8, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Flooding at Temple Mall in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, on September 8, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Operations returned to normal in the early afternoon, but one of the exits of Wong Tai Sin station remained closed.

Also in Wong Tai Sin, which was hit hard by the rainstorm on Thursday and Friday, clean-up was underway at a shopping mall that saw restaurants submerged as floodwaters entered the basement level.

Photos from local media reports showed floodwaters had largely receded at the Wong Tai Sin Temple Mall on Saturday, leaving behind tables and chairs from a cafe lying in muddy debris.

Cleaners were seen disposing of waste, while staff at a shop on the basement floor told a reporter that “everything had turned to rubbish” in his store.

Residents of Big Wave Bay and Shek O clear debris from a landslide blocking Shek O Road, Hong Kong, on September 9, 2023. Photo: Supplied.
Residents of Big Wave Bay and Shek O clear debris from a landslide blocking Shek O Road, Hong Kong, on September 9, 2023. Photo: Supplied.

On the southeast of Hong Kong Island, residents of Shek O and Big Wave Bay worked together to clear debris from a landslide that was blocking a road. Villagers there have complained that they are stranded, with the obstructed road the only vehicular path out.

Security for Secretary Chris Tang said on Saturday afternoon that he would personally go to Shek O to direct an evacuation effort. Authorities had set up a temporary pier in Shek O to arrange boats to evacuate around 200 residents, some of whom will be sheltered in a community centre in Causeway Bay, Tang said.

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Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.