A passion for outdoor work and high emotional quotient are the traits sought by the Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) in addition to technical competencies, says Terence Lam, senior geotechnical engineer at the Civil Engineering and Development Department.
Work at the GEO is as challenging as it is exciting. After Lam joined GEO in 1999, he was assigned to handle the emergency evacuation of villagers in Sham Tseng San Tsuen after a landslide brought by Typhoon Sam. A man was buried alive and 30 villagers were injured. "Initially, we were locked in a confrontation because some villagers did not want to leave their houses. It took a lot of explanation to convince them to evacuate their homes," he says.
Lam was once called to assess the damage to a service reservoir near the University of Hong Kong caused by a landslip in 2005.
"As the situation called for close inspection, I climbed almost 30 metres down the steep hillside. It was very exciting. I felt like a member of the police's special duties unit, The Flying Tigers," he adds.
Every two or three years, geotechnical engineers are rotated among the 11 GEO's divisions. "Along with Slope Safety Division, GEO runs divisions such as Planning, Mines, Geotechnical Projects, Standards and Testing, covering activities related to the safety and economic utilisation and development of land in Hong Kong."