Mountain rescues triple amid pandemic

Local | Erin Chan 18 Mar 2021

The number of calls received for mountain rescues tripled last year as more Hongkongers ventured outdoors amid the pandemic, according to the Security Bureau.

In a written reply to lawmakers, it said the Fire Services Department received 602 calls for mountain rescues - a 180 percent jump from 215 in 2019.

The Government Flying Service doubled its deployment of rescue helicopters to 885 times last year from 421 in 2019.

The number of injuries from hiking also almost tripled to 323 from 121 in 2019, with 11 hiking-related fatalities recorded last year.

On rescue manpower, the bureau said fire services established a mountain search and rescue team in October 2016, with 200 personnel stationed across stations near hiking hotspots.

The team was equipped with GPS trackers, unmanned aircraft systems, night-vision devices, infrared telescopes and communication equipment to enhance its work.

A seventh branch of the team was set up in Tai O Fire Station last month to cope with a surge in hiking accidents on Lantau in recent years.

To upgrade the team's rescue work, a mountain search and rescue support team, comprising instructors from the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy, has also been set up.

Similarly, the Government Flying Service deployed seven more rescue helicopters in the third quarter of 2019 to improve its mountain rescue work.

Likewise, the service is gearing up for the full operation of a flight simulator training center late next year to gear pilots for mountain rescues.

"In addition, the GFS Kai Tak division is expected to be in full operation in the third quarter of this year," the bureau said.

The Civil Aid Service has also upgraded its training facilities at Yuen Tun Camp, as well as relevant training to strengthen mountain rescue work, the bureau added.

On biking-related casualties, the government recorded a 57 percent surge to 2,822 from 1,799 in 2019.

In the meantime, police took enforcement action against biking contraventions 4,018 times last year.

That came as rescuers were searching for a male hiker in his 50s after his family reported him missing following a solo hike from Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung.



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