Hong Kong deploys robots, smart sensors to avoid repeat of city’s worst flood on record

Hong Kong has deployed robots that monitor water levels and smart sensors as part of an hi-tech push to tackle the coming rainstorm season, after the city experienced its worst downpour on record last year.

The Drainage Services Department said on Thursday that 32 “LeMon Switch” sensors, which collect data from stormwater drain manholes, were deployed earlier this year to flood-prone areas such as Wong Tai Sin and Chai Wan.

More of the sensors would be installed across the city, with the technology alerting the department to spots in need of urgent drainage clearance, it added.

“Flood prevention work will be reinforced in four areas, namely including early warning, emergency preparedness, response and recovery,” Director of Drainage Services Ringo Mok Wing-cheong said.

“The application of more advanced and the latest technologies will enhance the department’s work efficiency and occupational safety.”

The department has also adopted the “Tumbler Inspection Ball Robot” to provide officers with stable and clear footage offering 360-degree panoramic views as they inspect underground pipelines.

“The Tumbler Inspection Ball Robot breaks through traditional constraints and overcomes the problem of inspection devices easily capsizing in the rapidly flowing underground drainage pipes,” Mok said.

He added that the technology would see active use in the future.

In response to the incident, city leader John Lee Ka-chiu said his administration would speed up HK$8 billion (US$1 billion) worth of projects to improve drainage in places such as Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong Island East and other areas hit hard by past floods.

Officials on Thursday also showcased the construction progress of a 64,000 cubic metre stormwater storage tank, the equivalent of 25 standard swimming pools, beneath the Sau Nga Road Playground in Kwun Tong.

“During heavy rainfall, rainwater will be stored in the storage tank temporarily till the rainfall is gone,” Mok said.

The tank is expected to be completed by 2028 and aims to alleviate the impact of future unstable weather in Kwun Tong.

Mok said the storage tank cost about HK$934 million, but argued the price tag was reasonable given its huge size.

The new device is part of efforts to ramp up flood-prevention works in response to a record-breaking rainstorm last September that triggered flooding across the city.

The downpour resulted in Hong Kong’s longest-ever black rainstorm warning and brought the city to a standstill as it left drivers stranded in cars, restaurants flooded and landslides close to several housing estates.

More than 100 people were also sent to hospital after being injured during the incident.

Over in Wong Tai Sin, the lower ground floor of Temple Mall North, a local shopping centre, was left partially submerged by floodwaters.

Lung Cheung Road, a major route through the Wong Tai Sin, became flooded and saw people forced to wade through the waters.

A car park in Chai Wan’s Wan Tsui Estate was half-filled with water, almost fully covering vehicles, while the busy traffic and pedestrian routes along Wan Chai’s Tin Lok Lane turned into a stream.



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