Highways Dept accused of cover-up over seawall collapse, mud slick

Yet another engineering failure, resulting in a massive mud spill, has been revealed at the scandal-plagued Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge (HZMB). The Highways Dept only yesterday acknowledged the collapse, at the southeast end of Chek Lap Kok, more than two years after the event. Newspaper HK01 reported Monday that the failure released tonnes of mud into Tung Chung Bay, creating a brown slick.  It published satellite photos from Google and the Lands Dept showing the discoloured water. The paper and Civic Party law-makers have accused the Highways Dept of covering up the accident, the latest in a series of incidents in the HK$130 billion project.

A senior civil engineer, Ngai Hok Yan, says construction appears to be going at too fast a pace, HK01 reported. As a result the reclamation has not had time to settle and thus the clay layer on the seabed is turning into mud flow instead of draining. He also said the large amount of sand collapsing would impact on the structure of the road overhead, describing the situation “as very serious.”

An unnamed source blamed it on the Highways Dept design, rather than the contractor, China State Construction Engineering.

Highways Dept Director Daniel Chung Kum-wah admitted the incident took place in October and November 2014, when on-site supervisors discovered two seawalls had extended and demanded that the contractor do remedial work, according to SCMP.com .  He said the incident was not serious, which was why it was not reported at the time.

“The incident hasn’t caused any impact to nearby residents. It is not a safety issue. It hasn’t caused any environmental impact. The public might not be concerned about it,” he contended.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-kei has called for an inquiry. “The incident not only has a serious impact on the coastal ecology, but involves the Highway Department deliberately hiding its mistakes, indulging contractors carrying out illegal reclamation, deceiving Legco and Hong Kong people,” he posted on his Facebook page.

Civic Party leader Tanya Chan has called on Highways Dept officials to appear before a LegCo Environmental Affairs Panel next week.

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