Typhoon Mangkhut Slams Hong Kong and Southern China

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HONG KONG — Typhoon Mangkhut battered Hong Kong and Macau on Sunday with 100 miles-per-hour wind gusts, drenching rains and 11-foot surges of seawater that inundated the first urban area of Asia to face the wrath of the year’s mightiest storm.

Mangkhut left a swath of damaged buildings and scores of injuries in Hong Kong and Macau before churning across the southern coast of China. Barely a day earlier, it ravaged the northern Philippines and left dozens buried in landslides, including people sheltering in a church and a dormitory for miners.

The unofficial count from the Philippine police put the number of dead as at least 59. The death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers continued digging into areas buried by mud, especially in mountainous parts of Benguet Province in the northern island of Luzon. The president’s office said 43 bodies had been recovered from the mine landslide and the search was continuing.

Francis Tolentino, a senior adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, estimated that 5.7 million people had been affected by the storm and raised concerns about how aid could be sent to the hardest-hit areas.

While the other side of the world was preoccupied with the destructive power of Hurricane Florence as it drenched the Carolinas, Mangkhut hurtled into southern China’s city of Taishan, in the sprawling, densely populated province of Guangdong, making landfall around 5 p.m.

China’s state television reported that at least four people had been killed in the province. As night fell, the full extent of the damage was not yet clear.

[Follow the latest updates on Typhoon Mangkhut in our live briefing]

Meteorologists have called Mangkhut the world’s most powerful storm of 2018, with a span as wide as 550 miles and wind gusts that hit 200 miles per hour last week. At its peak, the typhoon was equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.

For Hong Kong, a metropolis that has shrugged off tropical storms in the past, Mangkhut was different. Though its peak gusts had slowed to 100 miles per hour, Hong Kongers were taking no chances.

The typhoon accelerated as it crossed the South China Sea, landing a nearly direct hit on Hong Kong at midday Sunday and sweeping through the city’s canyons of tall buildings.

By then, the city’s normally teeming streets were clear of people and cars, as residents heeded the local weather authority’s signal 10 storm warning— its highest level.

For the first time ever, Macau, the gambling capital nearby, closed its casinos because of a storm, although they reopened on Monday. By the time the winds and rain eased, central parts of Macau had suffered major flooding and 20,000 people were left without electricity.

Hong Kong Airport, a central transit point for much of Asia, was virtually shut down on Sunday. Almost 1,000 flights were canceled or delayed, but by Monday the airport had reopened. The outdoor sections of the city’s vaunted subway system were taken out of service.

Airports and high-speed railways in Guangdong, too, were shut down, throttling traffic in one of world’s most urbanized and densely populated regions, with 100 million people. By midday, most bridges in the province, which stretches southwest toward Hainan Island, were closed. Schools in the province, along with those in Hong Kong and Macau, have been ordered closed on Monday, when the storm’s effects were expected to linger.

China’s state television did not immediately provide details about the four deaths, but they followed reports on social media of people crushed by falling debris in Shenzhen and Dongguan, two cities along the Pearl River near Hong Kong.

There were no reports of deaths in Hong Kong, but the government said early Monday that nearly 400 people had sought medical treatment. More than 1,500 people sought refuge in 46 temporary shelters.

But on Sunday, some were in danger of failing. The Hong Kong Observatory warned people to stay away from steep hills and retaining walls and issued evacuation notices to residents living in areas prone to landslides. Temporary shelters were opened.

On Sunday, most residents hunkered down in their apartments, while those in more flood-prone areas took refuge in shelters.

As the storm bore down, people took to Facebook and WhatsApp messaging groups, circulating photos of the hurried preparations: cars and motorcycles mummified with cling wrap, indoor storefronts encased with spiderweb-like tape. One Instagram user altered an image to add Spider-Man onto the side of a Hong Kong building, where he’d pitched in by putting tape on a window.

As the storm unleashed its full force, the postings became more ominous.

Videos showed glass windows and doors smashing, pedestrians blown off the ground and residents frantically bailing rainwater off their balconies to prevent flooding.

In the neighborhood of Tai Kok Tsui, video captured the collapse of a crane or elevator shaft affixed to a building construction site. No injuries were reported.

Fearsome winds caused storm surges as high as 11 feet in Victoria Harbor, which separates Hong Kong Island from the rest of the city. The winds abated a bit in the afternoon as the typhoon headed toward the Pearl River estuary in Guangdong, where a cluster of fast-growing cities are considered particularly prone to climate change.

[Read more about how rising waters threaten China’s growing cities]

Lily Chiu, a 60-year-old caregiver in Hong Kong, had stayed overnight at the nursing home where she worked to avoid commuting to an early shift when the storm hit. Other than the tape on the windows of residents’ rooms, it had been a normal day, with hot meals running on schedule.

But this storm felt different.

“These last few hours felt more severe than other typhoons I had experienced,” Ms. Chiu said, after speakers announced that train services to the station near her home had been suspended. She prepared to walk home.

In the eastern Hong Kong neighborhood of Heng Fa Chuen, residents of a flooded housing complex linked arms and held hands as they waded knee-deep through pools of rainwater in streets, parking lots and stores.

“How am I going to go home?” one elderly man asked despondently into a phone.

“Heng Fa Chuen has become a water reservoir,” May Siu, a longtime resident, said. “I’ve lived here 30 years, and these storms only started looking like this with Hato last year,” Hato was the biggest typhoon last year.

Shaking their heads at the snapped lampposts and flooded entryways, residents said that the storm on Sunday had done far more damage than last year’s. Then teenagers rolled up their shorts and prepared to wade home through floating debris

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