Before anything else we ought to mourn for the people killed in the Typhoon Hato in the allegedly ill-prepared Macau. We underline as a disclaimer that the overall assessment of damage is a long process, even more so as the meteorology bureau is forecasting the landing of more tropical cyclones. Hoping the sequels are bearable, we invite ourselves to NOW.
We will pass on the enumeration of the graphic details to address the accountability issues, and ultimately, the political issues.
Usually described as a slow/smooth operator, cautious, indeed, and a distant leader, Chui Sai On was fast to evaluate the situation, and faster to take steps to defuse an imbroglio in the making. The CE went on to make an unusual address to the people in order to apologize for the dire effects brought by the passage of Hato. At least, the MSAR Chief Executive is trying to control the damage!
Given the warnings the Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau gave as they followed a severe tropical cyclone moving towards a direct hit, no wonder the CE appeared glad to announce the resignation of a long-time serving director of the bureau, Fong Soi Kun. At one stage, as Hato intensified, writes “The Guardian”, Hong Kong hoisted the number 8 signal, warning that it could be replaced soon by a higher storm warning, “yet Macau’s government rated Hato only a signal 3 typhoon.” That is to say, disgraced Fong Soi Kun went for the wrong flag and took on the burden of government responsibility.
Besides Fong Soi’s tokenistic resignation, Macau also addressed the tragedy with token public subsidies: MOP300,000 for each casualty, and MOP20,000 for actual storm damage. Resilient and pragmatic residents never say no to a MOP helping hand, regardless of how short or shy the handshake may be. More subsidies will arrive in the pipeline from government generosity to soften public mood. It looks like an apparently easy way out of the mess, but it is only an illusion.
Regarding what was presented as Typhoon Hato, we have to understand that this is a regular phenomenon…according to cyclical weather patterns over the Pacific. So regular was it that Fong Soi Kun was heard say to be pretty sure to have taken the appropriate measures to alert residents of the incoming typhoon.
As to the consequences of the typhoon blowing winds of 200 KPH at the Taipa hill station, we would consider the flooding, the uprooting of trees, falling window panes, flying debris – and meaning no disrespect to the people killed and the wounded – are not irregular weather events. What we call out as plainly irregular and which placed stresses upon the local utilities and autonomy in general is the failure of the power supply cable from Zhuhai and the insufficient response of the local power generators, affecting homes, hospitals, allegedly the radio service, and gambling resorts.
What we have to call irregular is the crumbling infrastructure, the poor construction, the lazy FM, and we repeat, what we have to call irregular is the collapse or the underperformance of energy, water supply, and transportation.
Political commentator Larry (So) has a more subtle and polite choice of words to describe this nightmare: government cannot handle the challenge…from a self-proclaimed first-class city!
Typhoon Hato managed to erase the veneer of the international city: the glitter peeled off easily!