Flooded homes, shattered windows, a submerged car park and deadly bamboo ... Hato’s wrath in Hong Kong
City is whipped by the biggest storm in five years, as some residents struggle to stay safe while others brave conditions for selfies
On the southeastern coast of Hong Kong, Li Kwok-ping and four other family members – armed only with plastic buckets and a dustpan – watched on helplessly as one wave after another crashed through their door for hours, flooding their home while Typhoon Hato wreaked havoc throughout the city on Wednesday.
Li’s family was just one of hundreds in rural areas that struggled to grapple with the biggest storm in five years, as Hato left destruction in its wake, flooding villages and uprooting trees.
Meanwhile, other parts of the city descended into chaos, lashed by rain and battered by powerful gusts of wind. The typhoon signal No 10 – the highest in Hong Kong’s storm warning system – was in place for more than five hours.
As of 9pm on Wednesday, no deaths from the storm were reported in Hong Kong, but at least 121 people were injured.
At least four areas were severely flooded – Lei Yue Mun and Heng Fa Chuen on the southeastern coast of Hong Kong, as well as Tai O fishing village on Lantau Island and Sha Tin in the New Territories.
At 6pm on Wednesday, in Ma Wan Tsuen on the Lei Yue Mun waterfront, Li’s family was still scooping out buckets of water from his one-storey house, after nine hours of bombardment by floods.
“The waves just kept coming in. The water came up to our knees. All our furniture is ruined,” Li told the Post.
Li’s house is located closest to the harbour where four-metre high waves clobbered the coast.
As Hato raged, water swept through streets of the entire village, causing bags of rubbish and debris to float about.
It was not the first time Li’s house had been flooded in a typhoon. Some years ago a typhoon No 8 wrecked his home. The government gave each family in the village HK$2,000 in subsidies.
“Every time a typhoon No 8 hits, we get scared of what is to come. When the water comes rushing in, you can’t imagine how powerful it is if you haven’t experienced it for yourself; you can’t even stand straight,” he said.
Directly opposite the village across the Lei Yue Mun channel, Heng Fa Chuen, a large-scale residential area, suffered considerable damage – playgrounds and an underground car park were flooded.
More than 20 cars were left submerged inside the car park and disgruntled vehicle owners blamed management staff for not notifying them earlier.
“It might be a total loss. I am very worried about the insurance. There’s nothing I can do to save the car,” one resident, who only gave her surname as Mak, told the Post.
Meanwhile on Lantau Island, at a low-lying rural fishing village in danger of facing the full wrath of Hato, dozens of residents were evacuated.
Officers from the police force, Fire Services Department and Civil Aid Service had to wade through waist-deep waters to assist affected residents and move them to temporary shelters or other safe locations.
Hato, named after the Japanese word for pigeon, is the first No 10 typhoon to hit Hong Kong in five years.
The intense storm packed enough of a punch to inflict significant damage on some of the city’s high rises.
A widely circulated online video showed how a suspended working platform swayed dangerously in the wind before smashing through the windows of a flat at Chatham Gate estate in Hung Hom.
At private housing estate Island Resort in Siu Sai Wan, the windows of at least one flat were shattered by the power of the storm, while the entire running track in a neighbouring sports complex was submerged in a flood.
Authorities faced a huge clean-up effort, with more than 692 reports of fallen trees, debris, displaced bins and glass shards littering the pavements and major roads.
On Connaught Road Central, four westbound lanes were covered with shattered glass after giant window panes fell from the Hang Seng Bank headquarters. Passing vehicles had to slow down significantly and avoid tyre punctures.
Bamboo scaffolding on buildings – a famed feature of renovation works commonly seen in Hong Kong – became overnight hazards in the strong winds, with some loose platforms dangling precariously from sky-high walls over pedestrians and motorists.
Despite the treacherous conditions, some people chose to make the most out of the extreme weather.
Dozens of storm watchers gathered at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, a major tourist spot, taking selfies and videos in raincoats as metre-high waves swept ashore.
Kam Siu-lam, who has been chasing typhoons for the past decade, said: “This is amazing. You can really experience the typhoon and feel just how powerful Mother Nature is.”
Reporting by Naomi Ng, Raymond Yeung, Kimmy Chung, Elizabeth Cheung and Ernest Kao