The department responsible for building site safety has refused to respond to questions about a construction beam striking a packed-out morning commuter bus in a wreck that injured four people, including a 10-year-old boy.
KMB’s 23M double-decker, driven by 47-year-old Mr Lam, had turned into Hip Wo Street at the sprawling construction site of the United Christian Hospital extension yesterday at around 7am. But a steel I-beam at the construction site entrance gantry apparently struck the bus, smashing through the top-deck window and slicing through the bus body.
All four victims, a 20-year-old man, a 29-year-old woman, a 30-year-old woman and the 10-year-old boy, were taken to United Christian Hospital conscious, mainly injured by broken glass and with eye, head and hand injuries.
The incident has raised yet more questions on building site safety and the interface between construction sites and public roads and footpaths.
Many building sites in Hong Kong extend beyond their legal site limits, obstructing footpaths and causing hazards in the road, with little or no safety protection for traffic or pedestrians. At the United Christian Hospital site, for example, there is no provision for pedestrians to walk along Hip Wo Street safely.
Buildings Department has repeatedly ignored or knocked back questions on the issue over the last few years, either claiming there are no safety issues or referring questions to other departments such as Labour or Highways. Yet as the licensing authority, Buildings Department approves all building and construction plans, including hoardings and the street interface.
Hong Kong is the easiest place in the world to get a construction permit, according to the World Bank. Blatant law-breaking is tolerated or even encouraged: in 2018, Buildings Department refused to prosecute then-Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng for alleged illegal building works at four of her properties, claiming it would be unfair to single her out.
UPDATE: A Buildings Department spokeswoman says it is “unfair” to say the department refused to answer questions, as it had receieved the questions but did not know there was an urgent deadline. We regret the misunderstanding. The department has now responded to questions.