At a press conference yesterday, the government presented a series of ten measures to address the shortcomings detected after the passage of Typhoon Hato last August.
The measures aim to improve the region’s mechanisms to prevent and respond to natural disasters.
Chief Executive (CE) Chui Sai On gave the opening speech, with several members of the Commission for Reviewing and Monitoring the Improvements of the Response Mechanism to Major Disasters also in attendance.
The CE said the measures are based on reports issued by the three mainland institutions that the government commissioned to study its current disaster response mechanisms.
He noted that the government “[has] assimilated the scientific and technical proposals contained in this [final report on Hato] and adopted them in the design of short-, medium- and long-term disaster prevention and reduction plans, taking into account the real environmental conditions of Macau.”
More immediate measures include an executive order to approve a new “Code for the Tropical Storm Signals”, which adds two new categories to the previous four. The wind speed will now be reviewed every ten minutes instead of every hour and the “Storm Surge” warning levels will be expanded from three to five.
The CE said these changes would be implemented this month, ahead of the typhoon season.
Another measure relates to the region’s energy supply from mainland China. Macau and Zhuhai are currently linked by overhead cables, which China Southern Power Grid will replace with underground cables before the typhoon season.
It is expected that the works on the North-South main power supply project will be completed before the end of the summer. These works “will allow greater reliability in the production of electricity and will strengthen the emergency response capacity and the fast recovery of the electric power network following a major incident,” said the CE.
Several amendments to the regulations of use and operation of public car parks are also expected to be published this month. The car parks must now close one hour after Typhoon Signal 8 is hoisted or a Level 3 Warning (also known as Black Storm Surge) is issued.
As for other high-priority works scheduled to begin in 2018, the government will focus on expanding the “Basic Law of Civil Protection” as well as a series of general and specialized contingency plans.
Commenting on one such project – the construction of tide barriers in the Inner Harbor area – the CE said, “We are aware that this is a matter that interests everyone but I want to reaffirm that the solving of the flood problem does not depend on this project alone.”
The Secretary for Administration and Justice, Sonia Chan, also noted that the new water drainage system would be built ‘box culvert’ style, which uses huge underground tanks to collect the extra water for pumping out. It is expected the water drainage system will be completed by 2021, with Chan adding that such works will affect the location of the current sewage network as well as the underground cable system.
Chan also said that 16,000 trees were severely affected by the typhoon and that around 2,000 would be replanted in 2018, mostly in gardens and parks.
The acquisition of heavy-duty equipment such as pumps, trucks and cranes will be completed in 2020.
Also present at the meeting was the Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak, who emphasized the “revision of the juridical regime of civil protection” as his top priority. He described the current regime as outdated, as it has been in force for more than 25 years, and said that the new regime will comprise one law and two administrative regulations.
Wong also added that safety and security measures should be reinforced in local schools, proposing that the topic and relevant materials be disclosed in all institutions.
The Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosário, highlighted the “unpredictability” of natural disasters.
“I don’t know and I can’t guarantee that all the works we [are] going to do [will] be sufficient to prevent all disasters in the future,” he said.
Remarking on the disaster response plan, the Commissioner-General of the Unitary Police Services (SPU) Ma Io Kun said that “the works are running at a good pace and we expect to have it ready by the end of this month.”
Ma said the plan’s first tests would be done via a drill on April 28. The SPU intends to test the main systems, which range from public information and communication procedures to crisis response mechanisms and coordination capacities of various authorities.
Wong: civil protection improved coordination
QUESTIONED BY the media as to steps that the government is taking to prevent a disaster like the one that occurred on August 23 last year, the Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak said that “structure and coordination” had been reinforced and that the civil protection system now includes 29 public services. The Commissioner-General of the Unitary Police Services, Ma Io Kun, also added, “We already have mechanisms to alert the population, namely on the rise of the tide in the lower areas of the city.” Ma stated that the drill scheduled for the end of the month would test the authorities’ capacity to respond to unforeseen crises.
Chui sai on says weather bureau’s former chiefs can appeal decision
ASKED TO comment on the penalty applied to the former leaders of the Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau, the Chief Executive noted that, “the [individuals] involved now still have a period to contest this decision.” Chui said his decision was based on all reports at hand; namely those by the independent institutions from mainland China that investigated the actions of the Macau authorities, as well as the results of a more detailed investigation by the Commission Against Corruption.