PHILIPPINES, Sept 16: Typhoon Mangkhut rocked Hong Kong en route to mainland China on Sunday, injuring scores and sending skyscrapers swaying, after killing at least 30 people in the Philippines and ripping a swathe of destruction through its agricultural heartland.
The world’s biggest storm this year left large expanses in the north of the main Philippine main island of Luzon underwater as fierce winds tore trees from the ground and rain unleashed dozens of landslides.
In Hong Kong weather authorities issued their maximum alert for the storm, which battered the city with gusts of more than 230 kilometres per hour (142 mph) and left over 100 injured, according to government figures.
As the storm passed south of Hong Kong, trees were snapped in half and roads blocked, while some windows in tower blocks were smashed and skyscrapers swayed, as they are designed to do in intense gales.
The Philippines was just beginning to count the cost of the typhoon, but police confirmed at least 30 were killed when it smashed into northern Luzon on Saturday.
In the town of Baggao it demolished houses, tore off roofs and downed power lines. Some roads were cut off by landslides and many remained submerged.
Farms across northern Luzon, which produces much of the nation’s rice and corn, were sitting under muddy floodwater, their crops ruined just a month before harvest.
“We’re already poor and then this happened to us. We have lost hope,” 40-year-old Mary Anne Baril, whose corn and rice crops were spoilt, told AFP.
“We have no other means to survive,” she said tearfully.
Nearly five million people, almost a quarter of whom survive on just a few dollars per day, live in the storm’s path.
– Flooding in Hong Kong and Macau –
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people.
The latest victims were mostly people who died in landslides, including a family of four. In addition to the 30 killed in the Philippines, a woman was swept out to sea in Taiwan.
The Philippines’ deadliest storm on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central part of the country in November 2013.
In Hong Kong, waters surged in Hong Kong’s famous Victoria Harbour and coastal fishing villages, from which hundreds of residents were evacuated to storm shelters.
Some roads were waist-deep in water with parts of the city cut off by floods and fallen trees on Sunday afternoon as the rains continued.
In the fishing village of Tai O, where many residents live in stilt houses built over the sea, some desperately tried to bail out their inundated homes.
Floodwater is rushing into my home but I’m continuously shovelling the water out. It’s a race against time,” Tai O resident Lau King-cheung told AFP by phone.
The government warned people to stay indoors but some ventured out, heading to the coast to take photos.
A couple and child were seen by an AFP reporter taking pictures on a pier known as a popular Instagram spot as waves surged into it and almost submerged it.
Others stayed at home but were terrified by smashing windows in their apartments.
“The entire floor and bed are covered in glass,” one resident told TVB after her bedroom window shattered. “The wind is so strong.”
Almost all flights in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled.
In the neighbouring gambling enclave of Macau, all 42 casinos shut Saturday night and businesses were shuttered Sunday morning, some boarded up and protected by piles of sandbags.
As the storm moved south past Macau, its streets became submerged under water gushing from the harbour.
Rescue workers navigated the roads on jetskis, rescuing residents trapped in their shops.
The government and casinos are taking extra precautions after Macau was battered by Typhoon Hato last year, which left 12 dead.
Preparations were in high gear on China’s southern coast, including in Yangjiang, which is not often hit by major typhoons and where the city’s 2.4 million people were bracing for a direct hit.
Further down the coast preparations were also underway in Zhanjiang, where some villagers feared for the worst.
“I couldn’t sleep last night, I saw the typhoon on television and how intense it was,” said 55-year-old Chan Yau Lok. AFP