SCMP Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Baking weather for bun festival


Holiday crowds sweltered on the hottest day of the year yesterday, with the temperature reaching 33 degrees Celsius at Chek Lap Kok and parts of the New Territories.
But the hottest spot in town was the Cheung Chau ferry pier, where at one point 5,000 people jostled to travel to the island for the Bun Festival, an event marking the end of an outbreak of plague on the island 200 years ago.
A few visitors complained police officers were slow to maintain order, particularly when some people tried to jump the queue.
Lam Yuet-king, a spokeswoman for New World First Ferry, said it had tripled its usual peak-hour capacity to relieve the congestion.
"From 3pm to 5pm, we have carried 9,000 people from Cheung Chau back to Central," she said.
A woman in the crowd fainted because of breathing problems and was taken to hospital.
A total of 40,000 people joined in the Cheung Chau festivities, with 3,000 taking part in the procession.
Later, a 23-year-old woman suffered heat stroke on the island and had to be taken to St John Hospital for treatment. She was later discharged.
The annual event is a thanksgiving ceremony to mark the ending of a plague in the 18th century. Fishermen on the island believe local deity Pak Tai saved the inhabitants.
The Hong Kong Observatory recorded an average temperature of 31.8 degrees yesterday afternoon. The ultraviolet radiation index also reached a high level.
Temperatures are expected to peak at 28 degrees today, although thunderstorms or showers are possible, and remain high for the rest of the week.
An 11-year-old girl was in critical condition last night after almost drowning in a swimming pool at a house in Ma Lok Path in Kau To Shan, Sha Tin. She was swimming with another girl, both looked after by a 40-year-old woman, in the 1.5-metre-deep pool.
The woman left the pool for a short while and returned to find the girl struggling under the water, police said. She was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin.