Hong Kong canoeist dies from lightning strike while swimming to passing boat

More than 3,000 lightning strikes were recorded between noon and 3pm.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A canoeist trapped with his wife on an island in Hong Kong waters on Thursday died after being struck by lightning while swimming towards a boat to seek help.

The incident happened about an hour after hail was seen in Hong Kong for the first time in five years, as severe thunderstorms swept through some parts of the city. More than 3,000 lightning strikes were recorded between noon and 3pm.

The 45-year-old man and his wife went canoeing from Sheung Sze Wan in Sai Kung to Green Egg Island off Clear Water Bay Country Park at about 10.30am.

ALSO READ: You've got hail: Hong Kong sees hailstones 'as big as a 50 cent coin' as severe thunderstorms sweep through city

The pair sought shelter on Green Egg Island because of the heavy rain and strong winds about an hour later, according to police.

"The man thought that a passing boat had come to pick them up, and he then swam towards it, but was struck by lightning [shortly before 2pm]," a police source said.

He said the man was brought on board a motorised sampan before being taken to the marine police base in Sai Kung and airlifted to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan.

"He had no pulse and was not breathing," the source added. The man died in hospital at about 3.30pm, according to police.

Figures from the Observatory showed there were 1,955 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the New Territories East region, including in the Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O areas between 1pm and 2pm.

The thunderstorm warning, issued at 11.45am, was expected to last until 7pm. The Observatory urged the public to "stay indoors" or "seek shelter in buildings if you are engaging in outdoor activities", and to avoid high ground, as well as to keep away from "highly conductive objects, trees or masts".

Hail was reported at Tseung Kwan O at about 1pm.

Residents of Yung Ming Court in Tseung Kwan O saw hailstones the size of 50-cent coins, according to members of local Facebook group "TKOfriend", with one online video showing a mix of hail and rain hitting windows with a loud popping sound.

A resident of Heng Mei Deng Village in Sai Kung separately confirmed to the Post that hail had fallen in that area at about 1.30pm.

The Observatory noted the reports in a weather warning issued about half an hour after hail was first spotted in Tseung Kwan O.

A member of the Tseung Kwan O Facebook group ‘TKOfriend’ shows a hailstone that fell in the area at about 1pm.
PHOTO: Facebook

At noon, storm Chanthu was centred about 340km south-southwest of Jeju Island and forecast to move northeast at about 15km/h towards the Korean peninsula and Japan.

The weather in Hong Kong was forecast to be mainly cloudy with occasional showers and severe squally thunderstorms in some areas.

Hail was last reported in Hong Kong in July 2016, when Tropical Storm Nida hit the city.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.