Hong Kong moves into recovery mode after Mangkhut leaves trail of debris

Labourers work on a bamboo scaffolding hit by Typhoon Mangkhut in Hung Hom district, Hong Kong, on Sept 17, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG - No stranger to typhoons, Hong Kong gradually found its footing after being battered by Mangkhut, which triggered the highest level of hurricane signal on Sunday morning (Sept 16).

Recovery work to clear the trail of debris such as fallen trees and broken glass shards left by Mangkhut began on Monday (Sept 17) morning, while schools were closed for another day till Tuesday. It was business as usual for the stock market.

Flights were rescheduled as airlines and airport authorities worked to clear the backlog of stranded passengers after some 900 flights were cancelled during the storm.

Train and ferry services slowly got back on track through the day despite some chaos, while some bus services were suspended on account of blocked roads.

The government said on Monday that it aims to complete the cleanup of major roads by 5am on Tuesday.

Consultancy manager Devin Ong, 30, told The Straits Times that while it usually takes him just 10 minutes to get to work in the morning, he spent 45 minutes doing so on Monday, as there was no bus service and the few taxis available were all taken.

"There were no buses in my area because there were fallen trees all over the roads. I waited for half an hour and couldn't get a bus so I walked all the way to the MTR to take the train to work."

Mr Ong added that his friends who live in New Territories told him they had "no way to get to work at all" because of the power disruptions that affected the train services.

When contacted, Mr Eric Ong, head of retail banking at OCBC Wing Hang said the bank is adopting a flexible approach towards staff who found it difficult to get back to work after Typhoon Mangkhut.

"None of the branches are affected except for the Shatin Branch which experienced a one-hour delay for counter service because some tellers had difficulties getting back to work after the typhoon. Customers were redirected to neighbouring branches for their counter transactions during the delay," he added.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka Chiu said at a briefing on Monday afternoon that the damage caused by Mangkhut was "serious and extensive".

Almost 400 people were injured during Mangkhut - more than three times as many as during Typhoon Hato, which hit Hong Kong in August last year.

There were 1,500 reports of fallen trees, 600 obstacles blocking roads and 400 to 500 cases of broken or collapsed windows and furnishings, Mr Lee said.

Landslides and severe flooding affected some areas, with over 1,400 residents seeking refuge in temporary shelters overnight. Power and water disruptions continued to plague some areas on Monday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who also attended the briefing, felt that Hong Kong was well-prepared for Mangkhut and the authorities were able to activate their plans shortly after the Hong Kong Observatory signalled the approaching strong winds.

"Because of the severity of this typhoon, we need Hong Kongers to unite and help restore order to the city as soon as possible," said Mrs Lam.

While there were criticisms that the government could have acted more swiftly, Mr Eric Ong said: "I think this time round there was sufficient time or warnings given to citizens in Hong Kong."

In Macau, casinos resumed operations in the morning after shutting down on Saturday night in preparation for Mangkhut. The move was to prevent a repeat of last year when 12 people died and the city's leaders and casino operators came under fire for being unprepared.

The casino shutdown is expected to cost Macau from 1.1 billion patacas (S$186 million) to 1.5 billion patacas in lost gaming revenue, estimated Union Gaming Securities Asia analyst Grant Govertsen, Bloomberg reported.

Industry employees said it was the first time Macau had shut down gambling since licences for casinos were given out in 2002, the report added.

Meanwhile, local media said on Monday that the authorities were trying to restore power after some 20,000 households were affected, while shopkeepers tried to clean up their stores.

Over in China, at least four people were killed in Guangdong as Mangkhut ravaged the southern Chinese province, Xinhua News Agency said.

This came after Mangkhut landed on the coast of Jiangmen City in Guangdong, packing winds up to 162kmh, at 5pm on Sunday.

State broadcaster China Central Television reported that Mangkhut would cost the southern province of Guangdong more than 200 million yuan (S$40 million) by way of damage.

Mangkhut struck Cagayan province in the northern Philippines last Saturday with winds of up to 269kmh, leaving at least 65 dead and dozens missing.

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