Hundreds of flights affected as storm Pakhar hits Hong Kong and Macau days after deadly Hato

A woman raises her hands to block the rain on the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Hong Kong, on Aug 27, 2017. PHOTO: EPA
A red flag flies on a pier on the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Hong Kong, on Aug 27, 2017. PHOTO: EPA
Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers help clear debris from a street in Macau on Aug 25, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
A woman stands in a convenience store as they cleanup in the aftermath of Typhoon Hato and prepare for tropical storm Pakhar with taped-up windows in Macau on Aug 26, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Tropical storm Pakhar brought strong winds and heavy rain to Hong Kong and Macau on Sunday (Aug 27), just four days after one of the strongest typhoons on record, Hato, caused serious flooding and damage in the territories and killed at least 10 people in the gaming hub.

The two cities lowered their typhoon signal to No.3 in the early afternoon, after Pakhar brushed passed and landed in the southern Chinese city of Taishan in the morning.

Both cities issued their third-highest weather warnings, storm signal No. 8, early in the day as winds intensified and heavy rain lashed down, churning up rough seas and prompting alerts of flooding in low-lying areas.

No serious damage has been observed in Hong Kong so far. The government said it has received three reports of flooding and 85 reports of fallen trees.

Hong Kong's weather observatory said winds occasionally reached storm force in the southern part of the territory and hurricane force on high ground on Lantau Island to the west of the city where the airport is situated.

Pakhar's arrival comes as the cities are still reeling from Hato. While Hong Kong escaped major damage, Hato devastated Macau, the world's largest gambling hub, killing at least 10 people, injuring 244 and exposing critical infrastructure flaws after it left the city without water and power for days.

"With Pakhar making landfall and departing Hong Kong, local winds are expected to moderate progressively. However, under the influence of Pakhar's rainbands, high winds are still affecting the south-western part of Hong Kong," said the Hong Kong Observatory, the territory's weather forecasting agency.

The maximum sustained winds recorded at Cheung Chau and Chek Lap Kok slowed to 87kmh and 61kmh, respectively, from 114kmh and 76kmh earlier. Maximum gusts were 106kmh and 101kmh.

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A total of 206 flights were cancelled and another 471 delayed because of the latest storm, while 44 flights had to divert, Hong Kong's Airport Authority said. Cathay Pacific, the city's flagship, said "cancellations, diversions and severe delays" were expected. According to South China Morning Post, 50 planes were stuck on the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport.

Some ferries to Macau and outlying islands in Hong Kong resumed service after the typhoon signals were lowered.

In Macau, the storm will pose a major setback to clean-up efforts that saw Chinese People's Liberation Army troops deployed to help remove mountains of stinking debris strewn across some heavily flooded districts battered by Hato.

Power has been restored in the territory but some areas still lacked water supply as of Saturday evening, the Macau Government Information Bureau said on its official website.

The government said the city still faced a severe challenge in removing huge piles of waste from the streets, with 2,600 tonnes of debris collected on Saturday alone. Shower facilities and changing rooms at four public swimming pools have been opened to accommodate residents with no water facilities.

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Four Hong Kong journalists were denied entry to Macau on Saturday to cover the storms and relief effort on grounds they "posed a risk to the stability of internal security," according to reports from the media companies they represented.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed "deep regret" over the incident and urged Macau to respect press freedom. Police chief Ma Io Kun told a press conference on Saturday he was not aware of the case, but said the government respects press freedom "very much".

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