MACAU • The death toll from Typhoon Hato rose to at least 16 yesterday after the storm left a trail of destruction across southern China, blacking out Macau's mega casinos and battering Hong Kong's skyscrapers.
Eight people died in the gambling hub of Macau, where images showed cars underwater and people swimming in the streets. The enclave's famed mega casinos were running on backup generators.
Macau leader Fernando Chui made a public apology after his government came under fire for its delayed storm warning, while the head of the weather bureau resigned.
A man was killed by a wall that was blown down, another fell from a fourth-floor terrace and a third victim was hit by a truck.
The Macau government said two bodies were found in a flooded carpark early yesterday, and two other people died when they were trapped in the basement of their shop.
Details of the last victim were not immediately available.
The damage in numbers
Dead in Macau and Guangdong province.
Evacuated in Guangdong.
Guangdong households without electricity or water.
Hong Kong's losses, estimated at HK$8 billion.
Injured in Hong Kong.
Collapsed homes in Zhuhai city, Guangdong.
Zhuhai's estimated loss at 5.5 billion yuan.
SOURCES: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA
Footage published yesterday on the website of Apple Daily showed water gushing into an underground carpark, with people wading through neck-deep water littered with debris as a man shouted in panic. It was not clear whether it was the same carpark where the bodies had been found.
"I have never seen Macau like this since I came here in the 1970s," a taxi driver in his 50s, who gave his name only as Mr Lao, told the media. "It's like they were trying to gamble with their luck," he said, adding that the authorities had reacted too slowly and did too little to alert residents of the coming storm.
Blacked-out slot machines were seen at the largely empty Wynn Macau casino, where there was no air-conditioning but a musty atmosphere.
But a few dozen gamblers ignored the heat and tried their luck at four baccarat tables.
A staff member at the enclave's sprawling The Venetian resort said yesterday that its casino and shops were open, but there was no air-conditioning. A source had said on Wednesday that the complex was running on backup power.
But at the Grand Lisboa hotel in central Macau, an employee said it was still without electricity and water and that its casino and restaurants were closed.
The city's gambling industry generated over 220 billion patacas (S$37 billion) in revenue last year - more than half of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) - as it hosted over 30 million visitors.
Mr Chui and other government ministers bowed their heads during a minute's silence at an evening press conference yesterday.
"Hato is the strongest typhoon in 53 years and has brought tremendous damage to Macau," Mr Chui told reporters.
"In facing this disaster, we admit we have not done enough. There is space for improvement. Here, I represent the Macau government in expressing our apologies to the residents," he said, adding that the city's meteorological bureau chief had resigned.
Debris was scattered on roads and a shipping container was washed up on its side in front of a temple.
Streets were lined with trash and shattered glass, while residents holding plastic buckets queued for water from fire hydrants.
In Hong Kong, Hato - whose name is Japanese for "pigeon" - sparked the most severe signal No. 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years.
The city could have suffered losses of HK$8 billion (S$1.4 billion), said Chinese University of Hong Kong economics professor Terence Chong.
In the neighbouring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, at least eight people have died, state broadcaster CCTV reported.