Hong Kong weathers typhoon despite trail of destruction

Hong Kong residents were urged to make preparations like securing glass windows and panels with masking tape as the city braced itself for Super Typhoon Mangkhut expected to hit on Sept 16, 2018. ST PHOTO: CLAIRE HUANG

HONG KONG - Typhoon Mangkhut left a trail of destruction and injuries in Hong Kong on Sunday (Sept 16) as it barrelled towards mainland China after ripping through the Philippines.

More than 200 people sought medical treatment at public hospitals after the storm hit.

The Hong Kong Observatory had earlier warned that wind speeds of up to 118kmh were expected.

In an update on Sunday afternoon, it said: "Mangkhut is making landfall over the vicinity of Taishan, Guangdong, and is now departing Hong Kong gradually.

"Although local winds begin to weaken, destructive south-east storm- to hurricane-force winds of Mangkhut are still affecting parts of the territory."

Despite the relative respite from Mangkhut, the government is not taking any chances and has ordered all schools to be closed on Monday.

Hong Kong residents hunkered down on Sunday for the wrath of the most powerful typhoon of the year as it drew close, with violent gusts at one point reportedly hitting 232kmh.

Instant noodles were snapped up at a supermarket in Hong Kong on Sept 15, 2018, in preparation for Typhoon Mangkhut. ST PHOTO: CLAIRE HUANG

Trees snapped, windows shattered under the sheer force of the winds and buildings swayed, while some 7,000 households suffered power disruptions.

Videos of a crane falling from a Kowloon development under construction, crushing an older building, and another where the roof and external wall of a building in Tai Kok Tsui tore away and smashed to the ground, have been circulating widely online.

Local media also reported other examples of the destruction left by Mangkhut, including a rooftop unit that was blown over and became stuck in the gap between two buildings.

Singaporean Jovita Toh, who has lived in Hong Kong for 18 years, said this was the worst typhoon she has experienced.

Ms Toh, a 55-year-old executive in the inflight entertainment industry, said her apartment building in Mid-Levels is sandwiched between taller ones, so that shielded some of the impact.

"As I recall, it's the first time the closure of the airport was announced way in advance," she noted, adding that the amount of preparation for this monster storm was impressive.

"I made sure there's food (at home). My office is on the 16th floor and facing Victoria Harbour, so we secured the windows with tape and moved the computers."

The Observatory said on Sunday afternoon that storm surges at Victoria Harbour and Tai O reached about 4m, while heavy rain caused severe flooding in low-lying areas across the island, including in rural New Territories, where villagers were forced to evacuate.

Ferry and tram services were suspended for the day while the MTR Corporation was providing only limited services.

Finance professional Elson Ong, 26, a Singaporean living in Hong Kong's Sai Ying Pun area, said that he believes the local authorities are handling the situation well.

"On the news, I did see that they responded to multiple cases of trees collapsing. They also evacuated people who were living in low-lying areas because these areas are flooded," he said.

Around 900 flights were cancelled on Sunday, leaving passengers stranded at the airport.

In Macau, where the destruction by Super Typhoon Hato last year is still fresh in the mind, police were seen patrolling the streets in cars and playing audio warnings to urge people to stay indoors.

Gambling was suspended on Saturday before Mangkhut hit, to prevent a repeat of last year, when nine people were killed and the city's leaders and casino operators came under fire for being unprepared.

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The economic hit in Hong Kong and across China could reach US$50 billion (S$69 billion) on top of the US$16 billion to US$20 billion it probably exacted in the Philippines, said Mr Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller for Enki Research in the United States.

Bloomberg said the impact in the Philippines could be between 5 per cent to 6 per cent of its gross domestic product.

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