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Typhoon Mangkhut

Remembering killer Super Typhoon Hato, Macau residents prepare for impact of Super Typhoon Mangkhut

The last time a huge storm battered the casino hub, 10 people died and many businesses suffered. This time, residents have planned ahead

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 7:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 10:13pm

Learning from the tragedies of last year, Macau residents raced to batten down the hatches for Super Typhoon Mangkhut on Saturday.

Floodgates were up in areas near the city’s inner harbour, where floodwaters taller than a man were reported last August. According to official figures, 10 people died and more than 240 were injured back then, when Super Typhoon Hato hit the casino hub. Of those who died, four were found in car parks.

One of the car parks was at Tak Hang Building, a private estate where one man died. On Saturday, managers there were making sure residents keep out this time.

Leong Io-keong, who chairs the building’s owners’ association, said the car park would be in lockdown from 9pm on Saturday until the storm finishes.

“If residents don’t drive away their cars before 9pm, it will be their own fault,” Leong said.

To guard against flooding, a 1.6-metre-tall floodgate was installed at the car park’s main entrance. But Leong conceded it would not hold up against the floodwaters of up to 2.5 metres that the government had forecast.

The car park at Classic Bay, another private housing estate, was also ready to shut its floodgates. Two men were found dead at the lot last August.

A security guard said that, once Mangkhut hit, no one would be allowed in the car park, adding that residents had been told to move their cars to levels of the car park that are above ground.

Anticipating floods, drivers sought to snap up spaces at elevated car parks, forming long queues. To ease demand, the government offered more than 1,800 free spots in public buildings. Six corporations in the city’s gambling industry offered a total of 2,770.

Meanwhile, shopkeepers on Rua de Cinco de Outubro, a street that was severely flooded last year, fought against the clock to secure their goods. In an old neighbourhood near the city’s inner harbour, the street is at some points only about 100 metres from the shore.

Some moved their wares upstairs. Others blocked shop entrances with sandbags and floodgates.

A company selling building tools in the area said the government had given it 50,000 patacas (US$6,190) towards a two-metre-tall floodgate.

But not everyone was as fortunate.

Mangkhut latest: More than 500 flights cancelled at Hong Kong airport

The owner of a shoe shop established more than 50 years ago, surnamed Lam, said he could not install floodgates for lack of space.

To cope with the potential floods, the 82-year-old spent three days moving products upstairs, leaving empty shelves in his store front.

“After the big floods last time, I am a bit frightened,” Lam said. “It was the first time I’d seen it in the past 50 years … taller than a person, by two to three inches.”

Officials announced they would evacuate residents from low-lying areas. People in need would get priority for help, and transport to the city’s 16 temporary shelters would be arranged, the government said.

“People staying at low-lying areas, particularly those who live on the lower floors, need to seize the time for evacuation preparation,” police chief Ma Io-kun said.

The Macau Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau predicted that the monster storm would be nearest to the city by noon on Sunday. It issued the No 3 typhoon signal at 6pm, saying Mangkhut was 670km from the city. It said the No 10 signal was likely to come between 2am and 5am.

The bureau’s director, Tam Vai-man, said a red storm surge warning would be in place from 9pm, meaning floods could reach a depth of 1.5 to 2.5 metres.

Tam said the flooding could last longer than during previous typhoons because of tide changes.