A number of strange things have been happening
in the MTR in recent months...
...but it ought to be remembered how uneventful as well as
efficient rides on Hong Kong's mass transit railway are by and large
As we were about to leave the restaurant where we had dinner this evening, my friend noticed an alert on her smartphone that conveyed alarming news of a fire having broken out in the MTR. As more details came flooding in, I got a chill down my spine since, among other things, the incident had left some 13 people injured and had taken place in an MTR station that I had passed through twice today, including once about 20 minutes before all hell broke loose there.
As I write this, Tsim Sha Tsui station -- where a man appears to have tried to set a train on fire -- remains closed to the public. And while the trains on the Tsuen Wan Line began running again soon after the station had been cleared, my dinner companion elected to not return home via that line -- even though the trains have not been stopping at Tsim Sha Tsui station since the incident took place -- and opted instead for a longer alternate route back.
Visibly shaken, she asked me whether I had ever witnessed anything like the shocking events we had heard (and seen, via online video clips) taking place this evening. I told her that perhaps the closest thing to this was my having witnessed a fist fight break out at, coincidentally, Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station a few years back. (As I also informed her, my first instinct at that point was to look around to see if it was a fake fight being enacted for movie cameras; and the second was to take out my phone and see if I needed to dial 999 for the police, which I ended up not needing to do as the punch up was quickly broken up by a few brave good samaritans.)
Oh, and I've also been in a bus whose engine caught fire and started smoking quite a bit; causing panicked passengers and the driver to hurriedly get out of the vehicle and move far away from it as fast as we could! (This, for the record, was back in Philadelphia, where I had lived for a time -- and where I also had been when a SEPTA trolley crash left three people dead and around 150 others injured; and for days, afterwards, would pass by the section of the subway where the broken trolley had been left on a parallel track.)
Rather than scare me away from taking those forms of public transportation, I told my friend, I'd remind -- and calm -- myself by noting how rare those incidents were. In the case of the MTR, the last significant arson attack before this evening's took place back in 2004 -- some 13 years ago -- and even then, there were no fatalities. And the most dramatic events taking place in the MTR in recent memory actually has been political in nature rather than violent.
I'm referring here to the protests which took place after the Hong Kong government took out giant ads on the walls along the main walkway connecting Hong Kong and Central MTR stations for the controversial proposed Palace Museum project. Featuring images of Beijing's Forbidden City, the space was reimagined as Tiananmen Square; and consequently attracted the attention of June 4th Massacre protesters who did such as affix stickers of tanks to a nearby handrail, place red handprints on the ads themselves and stage demonstrations. And although I didn't witness it myself, one friend reported seeing a woman marching about the indoor area with a yellow umbrella held aloft at least twice last month!
If truth be told, I wish I had seen some of those protests. Heck, I might have been tempted to join in and lend them my support on the spot! At the same time though, I probably would have felt bad for causing the MTR staff trouble as often times, I do consider them to be among the good guys. After all, many of them literally wear yellow and black at work! ;)