Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the launching ceremony of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute this evening (August 20):
Dr Li, Mr Stevenson, colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you today to celebrate the launch of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute.
Life is full of challenges and risk. Even though Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world, disasters and accidents can and do occur. Last week, a pregnant woman was killed by a falling tree in the Mid-Levels and we were all deeply saddened by the tragic accident. We definitely do not want to see similar incidents happening again and this reminds us of the importance of disaster preparedness and response to our community.
With climate change also comes change in weather patterns – this is something the whole world needs to deal with. Here in Hong Kong, just in the last week or two, we have experienced heavy rainfall in a short span of time. We are in the middle of the typhoon season. Our topography means that landslips can occur at such times, as well as flooding in low-lying areas. We have very good systems in place to deal with all of these weather incidents, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas.
Our densely populated and highly urbanised community, coupled with an open immigration policy, means that we are also vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious disease. We remain vigilant against the current Ebola virus scare, and we speak with the sad wisdom that comes from dealing with the SARS outbreak in 2003, not to mention avian flu and swine flu.
Here in Hong Kong, we have learnt much and already done much to prepare for emergencies or disasters. Preparedness plans and emergency strategies have been drawn up to cover various scenarios. We provide training, and stage drills to test our responses and actions in real-time situations. Thankfully, with the dedication of health-care personnel, law enforcement agencies and civil servants, as well as the co-operation of the community, we have been able to overcome many difficult moments in the past.
Yet, given the serious consequences of a disaster, and no matter how thorough our preparations are, we should never be complacent. That is why the establishment of the Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute – the first in Hong Kong – is so important. And here I must offer my heartfelt thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine for making it happen. Well done.
The Institute will provide comprehensive and detailed training for personnel involved in disaster management. It will provide a platform to enhance co-ordination between clinical and non-clinical responders, and will help build a common language among all agencies and professionals. It is a visionary undertaking that will contribute greatly to the provision of safe, high-quality disaster services for the community.
Disaster response cannot be effective if carried out in a piecemeal and disconnected manner – especially in today’s fast-changing and interconnected world. Close partnership with relevant players is essential to ensure a well co-ordinated disaster response.
I congratulate the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine on lining up experts and partners from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, as well as from reputable overseas universities including Harvard and Oxford University, among others. The Institute has also established contacts with the Security Bureau and the Department of Health of Hong Kong Government, both of which have extensive expertise and experience to share.
I look forward to and welcome future co-operation and exchanges between the Institute and the Government to enhance disaster preparedness and response in Hong Kong.
In the long run, I am sure the Institute will not only help enhance our own skills and understanding, it will also help establish Hong Kong as a local and regional training centre in disaster preparedness and emergency response. Hong Kong has a fine record of helping our compatriots and neighbours in times of trouble; the Institute will add a new dimension and greater depth to such efforts.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to wish the Institute an excellent start and convey my gratitude to all who have tendered their time and effort that has led to the launch of the Institute today.