Severe typhoon hits Hong Kong, southern China after killing 64 in the Philippines

Photo: abc.net.au

 

 A severe typhoon made landfall in southern China on Sunday, inundating millions in the densely populated coastal cities with heavy rain, after ripping through Hong Kong and leaving at least 64 dead in the northern Philippines.

Hong Kong authorities were surveying the extent of Typhoon Mangkhut’s damage to this city of 7.3 million as winds of up to 120 miles an hour shook buildings, caused storm surges and fell trees across roads and pavements.

Residents hunkered down in their apartments, and streets in the usually buzzing city were deserted Sunday. Videos shared widely on Twitter and WhatsApp chat groups showed initial damage to some of the city’s towering and closely packed buildings. In one, at least a third of the tower’s windows had been blown out, scattering debris all around, and in another, a construction elevator shaft collapsed dramatically at a construction site in Mongkok.

Buildings swayed as sustained winds of about 96 miles per hour continued to slam against them. The city was on a signal 10 alert — the highest level — for most of Sunday. A red alert remained in effect for parts of southern China, where the typhoon was moving westward.

“Remain where you are if protected and be prepared for destructive winds and the change in wind directions,” warned the Hong Kong Observatory, the city’s meteorological agency, in an alert on Sunday afternoon. Residents were told to avoid Hong Kong’s harbors, including the iconic Victoria Harbor, where storm surges have caused the water level to rise dramatically. The agency also issued a landslide warning, and urged residents to keep away from steep slopes.

Though rains had died down by Sunday evening, gusts were still blowing through the city of Hong Kong. Roads were littered with fallen trees, some completely impassable, while glass glistened along the sidewalks. Hong Kong authorities say 284 people have sought treatment for typhoon-related injuries at hospitals. There have been no reports of fatalities.

Nearly half a million people were evacuated from seven cities in Guangdong province, on China’s southern coast, where Typhoon Mangkhut was expected to make landfall later Sunday afternoon. For the first time, 42 casinos on the gambling hotspot of Macau were closed “for the safety of casino employees, visitors to the city and residents,” according to a government statement. Severe flooding was seen on Sunday in parts of Macau, where residents still remember the destruction caused by Typhoon Hato last year, a storm that killed 10 and injured hundreds of others.

Flights were canceled at Hong Kong International Airport, a major transportation hub for the region. Airlines were expected to resume operations on Monday, but authorities have warned that it would take more than a day to clear the backlog of the some 800 canceled flights.

On Saturday morning, the typhoon ravaged the northeastern Cagayan province in Luzon Island, Philippines’ largest and most populated. At least 64 died in landslides or by drowning, the Associated Press reported, citing Philippine National Police officials. Cagayan is largely an agricultural province, and authorities fear extensive damage to crops grown there, including rice, corn and bananas. About 63,000 people have been affected, and the damage has not yet been fully assessed as many of the worst-hit areas are rural. Phone lines and communication in parts of the province have also been affected.

Still, the destruction and death toll was far lower than feared — especially compared to Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the archipelago in 2013, killing at least 6,300 in one of the worst tropical cyclones ever recorded. Authorities and residents say they had learned from that experience, and that residents were quicker and more willing to evacuate to shelters. About 87, 000 people were evacuated.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Cagayan Sunday to assess the damage and speak to disaster relief officials.

A spokesman for the president, Harry Roque, at a news conference said Duterte is “very, very satisfied so far,” with the government’s response, but expressed his condolences for the lives lost, according to the Rappler news website.

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