42 reports on urchin injuries on Lung Mei Beach

Local | 27 Jun 2021 6:46 pm

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department received 42 reports on Lung Mei Beach visitors in Tai Po being injured by urchins yesterday. 

The 200-meter beach - the first man-made beach to be built by the government at a cost of HK$200 million, made its debut last Wednesday. 

The LCSD said all the visitors involved only suffered minor injuries, who could leave on their own after being treated. 

"The department will pay close attention to the emergence of urchins and jellyfish during low tides, alerting swimmers via announcements and bulletins,” the LCSD said. 

Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards’ Union vice-president Nick Wu Kai-wing said up to 50 visitors had their wounds from urchins treated yesterday. 

Wu said among the visitors, some were swimmers, others were those who walked over or picked up urchins in the sand. 

“At around 5 to 6 pm yesterday, over a hundred urchins were washed ashore,” he said. 

From his estimation, over a hundred visitors had been injured by urchins in five days since the beach was opened. 

Wu reminded visitors not to pick up the urchins as their breakable spikes could pierce the skin, causing a stinging sensation, swelling and allergic reactions.

He said the LCSD should deploy at least 14 lifeguards to the beach every day - up from the current ten. 

“After excluding those who are on leaves, there should be only around seven lifeguards on the beach every day,” he said.

“And only four to five lifeguards are on duty around lunch hours.”

Wu said the lifeguards already had to juggle an awful lot of duties on a typical day, and the situation was exacerbated by the urchin explosion. 

“The lifeguards have to frequently clean up the urchins that are washed ashore,” he said. 

“At the same time, they have to tend to the visitors’ wounds, such as cleaning their wounds, plucking the urchins’ spikes from their skin and registering the number of visitors wounded by urchins.”

Wu also slammed the government for forging ahead with the beach’s opening without evaluating the risks beforehand.

His union criticized the LCSD for operating the beach while lacking one-third of lifeguards. 

“The authorities’ instructions on the beach’s emergency services are even an empty talk,” the union wrote on Facebook. 

An insider familiar with the matter said lifeguards had been cleaning the urchins on the beach since late last month. 

“The urchins are cleaned once a day - those close to the shore are usually cleaned, but those in deep water are difficult to be cleaned.”

He slammed the government for opening the beach “unprepared”. 

“There is a lack of manpower on the beach - this exhausts the lifeguards and is irresponsible to citizens visiting the beach,” he said.

Save Lung Mei Alliance spokesman Peter Li Siu-man said Long Mei was not an ideal location for serving as a beach as there were a large amount of sea species there. 

“Fortunately, the urchins that are washed ashore are not the spiky ones, or they can cause more injuries,” he said. 

Li recommended the government to divert more of its manpower into cleaning up urchins. 

“And they should relocate the urchins to the waters off Ting Kok, allowing them to live there," he said.

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