Several multi-million dollar mansions at a cliffside estate in Hong Kong are at risk of collapse after record rains last week eroded their foundations.
The rains loosened the soil and carved the side of the cliff in in the southern district of Tai Tam, an enclave of celebrities and tycoons
Hong Kong is vulnerable to floods and landslides because many buildings and roads are built into steep slopes.
The hazards have been heightened by climate change.
Three houses appeared to be at high risk of falling off the cliff, based on photographs, and one was found to contain structures that were been built without approval from the authorities.
There was also “some breach of the leases and unlawful occupation”, authorities said.
It is unclear if the unauthorised works aggravated the landslide caused by the torrential rain – the heaviest since the city began taking records in 1884.
The luxury homes in the area can cost up to $23m (£18.3m). A 2,773-square-foot four-bedroom home in the neighbourhood sold for, according to Mansion Global, a digital news site that covers the global real estate market.
Some residents at Redhill Peninsula were evacuated on Saturday following reports of landslides in the area.
Officials are evaluating the safety of the cliffside estate after issuing evacuation orders on Saturday due to reports of landslides.
Residents have been asked to temporarily close their gardens and outdoor swimming pools pending further checks.
During the evacuation of one of the houses, officials found two basements had been dug into the ground and suspected that the owners had done so without approval from the Hong Kong Building Authority.
Authorities also found that owners of one of the mansions may have illegally extended their terrace gardens on the slope.
“But our primary focus at the present moment is to stabilise the slope to ensure public safety,” said Bernadette Linn, the city’s secretary for development.
The city will “proceed with the necessary enforcement against the relevant breaches” once the slope is stabilised, officials said.
Officials shut down schools and offices last Friday after the downpour turned streets into raging rivers, and flooded subway stations and malls.
The unauthorised structures in multi-million-dollar homes in Hong Kong is a contentious subject, and critics have in the past accused government officials of turning a blind eye to the illegal works by wealthy businessmen.