Storm lashes Hong Kong, wreaking havoc

Firefighters escorting people through floodwaters as Typhoon Mangkhut lashed Hong Kong yesterday. The most powerful typhoon of the year was reported yesterday evening to be weakening as it moved deeper into southern China.
Firefighters escorting people through floodwaters as Typhoon Mangkhut lashed Hong Kong yesterday. The most powerful typhoon of the year was reported yesterday evening to be weakening as it moved deeper into southern China.ST PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Typhoon Mangkhut left a trail of destruction and injuries in Hong Kong 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 yesterday evening, it said: "Mangkhut is departing Hong Kong gradually, and local winds are weakening.

"However, destructive south-easterly winds are still affecting parts of the territory."

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

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

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 and 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 widely circulating online.

Local media also reported other examples of the destruction caused 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 reduced 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 quite impressive.

"Like all Singaporeans, 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 yesterday 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 provided limited services.

Around 900 flights were cancelled yesterday, leaving passengers stranded at the airport. But the airport authorities later said flights will operate overnight today to clear the backlog.

In Macau, where the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Hato last year was 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.

The economic hit in Hong Kong and across China could reach US$50 billion (S$68.7 billion), on top of the US$16 billion to US$20 billion the typhoon 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 and 6 per cent of its gross domestic product.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2018, with the headline 'Storm lashes Hong Kong, wreaking havoc'. Print Edition | Subscribe