An investigation on Macau’s weather bureau over its management of last week’s deadly Typhoon Hato has been launched following reports that its failure to raise storm warnings on time was influenced by consideration of financial impact on the city’s gambling industry.
Typhoon Hato, believed to be the strongest in 53 years, took at least nine lives in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, as of Friday, Fortune reported.
The deaths, injuries and destruction of the city, home to around 600,000 people, led to the resignation of Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau chief Fong Soi-kun on Thursday.
According to the South China Morning Post, sources knowledgeable on the government’s civic protection plans claimed that the “casino factor” almost certainly had something to do with the delay in warnings.
“From the time the typhoon No. 8 signal is hoisted, casinos are mandated to pay all staff overtime. While this might well be something the bigger operators can cope with, for the smaller casino sub-concessions it is a different matter,” an unidentified source told the Post.
“There need not be any direct, overt pressure as such, but there can be no doubt the ‘casino factor’ plays into the thinking of those charged with making storm signal decisions.”
The bureau raised a no. 8 signal on Wednesday morning, nine hours after Hong Kong’s announcement of the same alarm. The maximum signal was 10.
Many residents were then traveling to work. Ashley Sutherland-Winch, a marketing consultant, told Reuters, “I am shocked with the late notice and lack of preparation that was given for this superstorm. Residents are in peril and unable to assess if help is on the way.”
Macau’s Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) has since launched an investigation of the bureau after receiving a “large volume of complaints.”
In a statement, the CCAC said that the investigation focuses on the bureau’s “typhoon warning process and its internal management,” the AFP noted.
Apparently, the bureau received similar complaints last year after failing to issue a no. 8 signal when Typhoon Nida hit the city in the same month.
Watch Hato’s landfall in Macau: