The Deadly Landslides of Hong Kong in 1972

Kotewall Road Landslide

Landslide at Kotewall Road 18 nJune 1972
Landslide at Kotewall Road 18 nJune 1972 | Source

Who you were, what you did, where you lived, what used to matter, didn't seem important any more.

On 18 June 1972, it rained, and rained, and rained in Hong Kong. The low areas of the colony were flooded. The government announced landslide warnings. They suggested that all Hong Kong residents should stay indoor. They also urged residents living on and around insecure slopes to vacate their dwellings for temporary shelters provided by the government. I was eleven at that time. Everyone in the family was home, marooned by the rain and flooding waters. It was only a few years before that a fire had totally wiped out our hut. We moved into a resettlement estate established for the homeless thousands created by that fire. In our small flat that night, we were safe and sound. As there was nothing else to do, we had the mahjong out for a few family games. At the same time, we had the TV on. After only a couple of games, the TV programme was interrupted by a special boardcast of the news about two major landslides burying hundreds of people alive. One occurred at the huts nicknamed "Chicken Farm" at Sau Mau Ping, in the down-and-out part of the colony. The second occurred on Kotewall Road, Mid-Levels, where the Tai-Pans lived. We were all dumb-founded, not knowing what to think or say. The sound of mahjong games, once circling up the whole block, died down at the particular moment. Who you were, what you did, where you lived, what used to matter, didn't seem important any more. I remembered looking out the window and saw a withering leaf shakened up wildly by the rain, yet still clinging onto the branch. The next moment, it let go and was gone, leaving the bald twig behind.

Image credit: gwulo.com

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Comments 13 comments

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

Such a tragedy. Things like this make us realize how important family is and how unimportant belongings are.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 5 years ago from Hong Kong Author

Hi Pamela N Red,

thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Survivor 5 years ago

I am one of the survivors and relived the tragedy virtually every year. It was a Father Day on June 18, 1972. At around 9pm, the lights went out, and the building was shaking and I could hear my elder sister crying for mum and help. I felt something heavy landed on my abdomen and the next moment I fainted... I lost my entire family in that landslide.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 5 years ago from Hong Kong Author

Hi Survivor,

I'm sorry to hear about your pain. I do hope that the pain gets somewhat less with time passing.


John Hudson 5 years ago

At the time of the landslide I worked for a major international accounting firm located in Princes Building in Central District. One of my colleagues, a gentleman from New Zealand, lived in one of the buildings completely destroyed by the landslide. By a stroke of good luck he and his wife had been invited to visit friends that day. They survived.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 5 years ago from Hong Kong Author

Hi John Hudson,

thanks for sharing. Guess what? I work on the fifth floor of Prince's Building right now.


willy chen 4 years ago

i was living in emerald garden in 1972. 0n that fateful evening i drove my car to collect my wife who was working in queen mary hospital. After collecting my wife, we drove back towards emerald garden. While on the way we met people shouting at us "Don't go there, Don't go !!" We did not know what had happened. By the time when we arrived home, we found the whole street was in darkness, and the road was covered with abour 3-4 inches of mud. At that time my grandmother nad my one and half year old son was in the building. We were informed by granny that emerald garden was hit and we had to evacuate immediately. We spent the night at my relative's home. The next morning we returned to get our personal effects, and found out that my car park which is nearest to the landslid was filled up with mud. Had I left emerald garden a few minutes later, I would be buried alive! My wife would be waiting in queen mary hospital without me appearing and wondering what happened. It would be a shock to learn that she became a widow, and my son would become fatherless. Looking back, such event did not occur by chance. In fact, by God's grace that I was saved and my wife can continue her nursing service in the hospital.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 4 years ago from Hong Kong Author

Hi wily chen,

thanks for sharing your personal experience. I can see that it was so shocking that you still remember every detail 40 years later.


W Yip 4 years ago

I lived in 10 kotewall road and still remembered that fateful night. I felt the building was shaking when the landslide took place. I was back in HK about 3 weeks ago and walked by kotewall road. After almost 40 years, I could not recognize the patch up on the hillside anymore. How time flies.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 4 years ago from Hong Kong Author

hi W Yip,

Yes. How can you forget?

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.


Patrick59 3 years ago

I am almost exactly the same age as you. As an 11 year old I remember vividly the news reports. I lived on Kowloon side and did not know anyone at Kotewall road, but several of my friends did. It was shocking to find out how many people our age died in the tragedy. Every time I hear about flooding near where I live (now in California), I think back about this early experience. I always urge my friends and acquaintances to take the threat of flooding and landslides seriously.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 3 years ago from Hong Kong Author

Hi Patrick59,

thanks for sharing with us part of your childhood experience.


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 3 years ago from Hong Kong Author

Hi Patrick59,

thanks for commenting and sharing your experience.

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