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Typhoon Mangkhut

Clean up begins for Hong Kong residents after Typhoon Mangkhut wreaks havoc across city, leaving rubble, broken trees and layers of mud in its wake

In places such as Heng Fa Chuen, Tseung Kwan O and Tai O, people are springing into action and dealing with the aftermath of the monster storm

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 September, 2018, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2018, 11:18pm

A 60-year-old woman spent almost two hours walking around the Heng Fa Chuen waterfront in eastern Hong Kong Island on Monday morning, looking for the frame of her bedroom window which was ripped out by Typhoon Mangkhut the day before.

“I want to pick up [the frame] and turn it into an artwork,” said the resident, who only gave her surname, Lo. “It will commemorate how much the typhoon wreaked havoc in my home.”

Mangkhut, the most intense storm to hit the city since records began in 1946, required the city’s highest tropical cyclone warning signal No 10 on Sunday.

Heng Fa Chuen, a seaside housing estate, was one of the worst hit areas.

Lo’s search was fruitless. Everything near her sea-facing block was buried under a thick layer of rubble, sand, mud and rubbish. The whole estate looked like it had been battered. Bricks were scattered all around. Broken or uprooted trees were everywhere. A children’s playground was partly submerged. Sections of pavement had sunk.

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According to local district councillor Stanley Ho Ngai-kam, lifts in 29 of the estate’s 48 blocks were damaged and suspended on Monday, including Lo’s. About 10 blocks had no drinking or flushing water.

Lo said at least three blocks, but not hers, had power cuts between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, but the supply had resumed.

Resident KY Chan, 62, had no water and the lift was not working in her block. With bad legs, she carried buckets of water from a nearby supply truck to her 13th floor flat. She said the power was off from 5pm on Sunday for almost nine hours.

“It’s so tragic for us,” Chan lamented.

The estate’s only shopping centre was closed for repairs on Monday. Only convenience stores, where most of the food was sold out, and a bakery with empty shelves were open.

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Roger Cheung Che-yuen, 66, was facing the same problems. The electricity went off in his flat at about 4.30pm on Sunday until 7am on Monday. The water supply and lift were still out of action.

“We’ve been living off dry food like bread and cup noodles,” Cheung said. “I feel the typhoons are getting stronger every year. Maybe it’s something to do with global warming.”

Resident Pang Wai-sun’s car was swamped during the storm. Pang, 60, had only paid off four months of his one-year car loan.

“My car will be a total loss,” he said. “The engine is completely soaked. A friend told me a wave swept in and over my car.”

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Online videos showed waves sweeping ashore during the storm, reaching the fourth floor of some blocks. The glass entrance doors in some residential blocks were shattered.

At the waterfront in hard-hit Tseung Kwan O, more than 50 volunteers gathered for a clean-up.

Signs and a metal fence had been knocked over, and bikes, branches and drain covers were scattered around. Soil and bricks blocked a cycling underpass.

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“Our whole block is out. There’s no power, no water, so rather than sitting there and getting hot, I might as well come out and help,” said Louise Stark, 45, a UK native who just moved to the city and brought her children and helpers to join the crowd at 4pm after reading a Facebook post on “TKO Parents Group” calling for volunteers.

Ariel Au, 21, a student who had the day off chose to spend it cleaning up the neighbourhood she had lived in for most of her life.

“The waterfront was built in a very short time,” said Au, who joined the clean-up with a friend. “All the bricks were blown up and forced into the underpass there.”

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In Tai O fishing village on Lantau Island, another badly hit area, resident Roger Chiu Sin-fai was clearing mud and sand from his home, brought in by knee-deep water during the storm.

The 60-year-old said streets were full of rubbish, branches and wooden boards, and a few old, uninhabited houses had collapsed.

“There are some local volunteers helping to clean up, and everybody is super busy,” Chiu said. “It will take two to three days to recover.”

In Tuen Mun’s Ka Wo Lei village, where water was waist deep, resident Jimmy Chan said he cleaned up his house until 3am, mopping, throwing out garbage and drying furniture.

“Broken trees are everywhere,” Chan said.

Mass clean-ups were also going on in other flooded areas including Lei Yue Mun.