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Typhoon Hato

Two bodies found in Macau car park raise Typhoon Hato death toll to 12

Local residents fume at official response as half of city still without electricity in wake of strongest storm in 53 years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 10:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 1:38am

Macau’s local Typhoon Hato death toll rose to eight on Thursday morning after two more bodies were found in a flooded car park, as residents slammed officials for what they said were slow rescue operations and bad contingency plans.

That took the regional death toll to 12, including four killed in Guangdong province. Hong Kong suffered no fatalities.

At least 150 people were injured in Macau, and residents had by Thursday morning been struggling with a massive power failure for nearly 24 hours, after the storm battered the former Portuguese enclave the day before.

At 3.45am, firefighters found a man’s body in the car park of Classic Bay on Rua da Ribeira. Less than half an hour later, customs officers found another dead man at the same site.

A man surnamed Kwan, the son of one of the dead men, told local media outside the building that his 60-year-old father had been trapped inside from 11am on Wednesday, and firefighters only arrived at 3pm.

“We had to use a very small exhaust to pump the water out to save our father. We called the fire services for a bigger exhaust to rescue him, but no one answered our requests,” Kwan said.

He added that the other man found inside was his father’s friend, who had been helping his father move his car before the deluge.

“When the firefighters arrived, I was on my knees and begged them to save my father,” he said.

“Where is the central emergency operation centre? No one cares when the residents are in trouble and call 999. They only came to save us in the very late hours. Can you still save [lives]? The people had died already.”

But a customs official, whose department helped with the emergency response, denied the rescue was delayed.

“Our staff dived five or six times. We needed to pump more water out so as to get a better view,” Ng Kuok-heng, deputy director general of the Macau Customs Service, said.

“We arrived and sent divers once we received calls.”

A Government Information Bureau spokesman said power was gradually being restored, while utility firm Companhia de Electricidade de Macau (CEM) said power had been fully restored to most customers.

The company said in a statement on Thursday: “After dispatching over 100 engineers and third-party contractors in each district yesterday, at 6am this morning, except about 40,000 customers whose power supply facilities were damaged by the floods, the power supply to all other affected customers has been fully restored, including major public utility users.”

Five dead, hotels facing two-day shutdown after Typhoon Hato knocks out power in Macau

Hato was the casino hub’s first ­signal No 10 typhoon – the highest in Macau’s storm warning system – in 18 years.

Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on said it was the strongest storm recorded in Macau in 53 years, adding that it had had a severe impact across the city.

He expressed his condolences to the families of those who had died, and conveyed sympathy for everyone affected by the typhoon.

“The government is dedicating continued effort regarding coordinating the restoration of water and electricity supplies in order to ensure the Macau public can resume their normal lives as quickly as possible,” Chui said soon before midnight on Wednesday.

Power was out from noon on Wednesday, affecting tens of thousands of local families and tourists even as electricity supply was slowly restored during the afternoon.

A local resident surnamed Leung, living in Areia Preta on the Macau peninsula, said people had to line up for water.

“I still don’t have TV signal and water at home,” Leung said. “I have to go onto the streets and get water with baskets from fire hose back in the 90s.”

Pictures online showed some shops charging 150 patacas for two bottles of water, causing anger. But Sou Ka-hou, leader of pro-democracy political party Macau Conscience, said that was an exceptional case and that many shops had opened to give out free water.

“Many residential buildings here are still facing a water shortage. Shops that had restored water supply let residents come in and collect water in baskets,” Sou, who lives near Portas do Cerco, near the mainland border, said.

“There are enough bottles of water in supermarkets and they are sold at normal prices.”

Sou said he was angry over the slow government response to the storm damage and that the government had not been well prepared for the typhoon.

Local reports blamed the blackout on an extensive shutdown in the neighbouring city of Zhuhai. Some 82 per cent of Macau’s power was imported from mainland China last year.

CEM said that power supply across the border “was basically resumed at 9am [on Thursday].”

As of 11am on Thursday, 405 incidents had been reported to the government involving floods, damaged billboards and uprooted trees.

Water supply was gradually resumed in Cotai and Coloane in the morning after problems at the Coloane Water Treatment Plant were fixed at 1am.

The Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal resumed service at 7am and provided limited sailings. Ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau also resumed gradually from 7am.

A front desk employee at Galaxy Hotel in Cotai said the hotel had regained power and had resumed taking reservations.

“Our bookings are full today. Our casinos are still open,” she said.

But Wynn Macau, also in Cotai, said it could not check in new customers as the hotel still had no electricity.

“The power supply in Macau is very unstable, and unfortunately our hotel is still facing a blackout. We cannot take new guests at the moment,” a woman at the front desk said.

Hato hit other places in the Pearl River Delta just as badly, killing at least four people and toppling hundreds of houses in Guangdong.

A woman was killed in Zhongshan after a tree that Hato bad brought down hit her as she rode her bicycle, and a man in the same city died when his truck fell on him.

The typhoon also claimed two lives in Zhuhai, the city government said. No details were released, but local media reported that one of them drowned in a flooded garage.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok