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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

‘10 per cent fatality rate for solo hikers who needed rescue’: Hong Kong police

‘10 per cent fatality rate for solo hikers who needed rescue’: Hong Kong police

Police have urged hikers to install a GPS tracking app to make rescues easier during accidents.

Nearly 10 per cent of solo hikers who needed rescuing ended up dying, Hong Kong police have warned, urging residents to install a GPS app to make tracking easier during accidents.

The force and fire services officials on Saturday urged residents to refrain from going on trails alone and posing for selfies at risky spots, as they rolled out the Project Hill Pal campaign to raise awareness about the importance of hiking with other people.

Chief Inspector Fu Chun-yip, of Kowloon East Regional Headquarters, said from September last year to August authorities mounted 256 hiking-related rescue operations, of which about 65 cases, or 25 per cent, involved solo climbers.

Police roll out the Project Hill Pal campaign to raise awareness about the importance of hiking with other people instead of hitting the trails alone.

About 90 per cent of the accidents occurred in Sai Kung, while the rest were in Tseung Kwan O or Wong Tai Sin, he said, adding most cases happened during the summer.

“Among the lone hikers, the fatality rate was close to 10 per cent while for those accompanied by other people, the fatality rate was lower than 4 per cent,” he said.

“The fatality rate for lone hikers is higher because when they had accidents, there was a lapse in time before their families discovered they were missing and reported it to the police, resulting in delays in the rescue operations.”

Hiking accidents have become more common in recent years, with more Hongkongers heading outdoors to get some exercise and fresh air during the coronavirus pandemic. But many hikers who flocked to the city’s popular outdoor trails were unprepared and unaware of hazards as they ventured in search of selfies in dangerous spots, resulting in unnecessary tragedies.

Fu urged hikers to install the government’s “Enjoy Hiking” GPS tracking app which was developed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to trace people on their trails. He said the software would allow authorities to locate those who needed assistance to provide timely help.
Police, the Fire Services Department and the Civil Aid Service distributed leaflets in five hiking hotspots on Saturday.

“All you need to do is to activate the app while you are hiking. The data will be deleted after seven days so it won’t affect users’ privacy,” he said.

Police, along with the Fire Services Department and the Civil Aid Service, distributed leaflets in five hiking hotspots to remind residents about safety and to refrain from hiking alone.

Mo Shan-hoi, station commander of Sai Kung Fire Station, warned people not to hike alone, adding that residents should be well-equipped with enough food and tools, and avoid going to risky areas, especially to take selfies.

“The Fire Services Department often receives calls from hikers for help in cases where they got lost, injured, trapped on a mountain top or suffer a heatstroke,” he said.

“Hikers should cancel their journeys during bad weather and choose an appropriate route. A common cause of accidents was usually due to hiking alone or a lack of equipment. When we carried out our rescue operations, the most difficult thing was identifying the person’s exact location.”

Official figures showed there were eight hiking-related fatalities in the first five months of this year. The number of deaths rose to 14 last year from 11 in 2020.

Injuries in hiking-related cases reached 232 between January and May this year, according to the department. The number of people injured increased to 608 in 2021, from 323 in the year before.

In the first five months of this year, the department carried out 408 rescue operations, while there were 951 last year and 602 in 2020.


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