The southern coast of China was battered by heavy rain and wind as Typhoon Mangkhut barreled forth on Sunday, regaining some strength after taking a powerful swipe at the Philippines a day prior that left at least 28 people dead.
The storm side-swiped the semiautonomous region of Hong Kong en route to China’s Guangdong province, where it made landfall Sunday evening with winds still roaring at 100mph.
The biggest storm of the year has been downgraded from a “super” to a “severe” typhoon, but it is still considered a “high threat,” and Hong Kong maintained its highest storm warning of Level 10 through Sunday afternoon as winds of up to 117 miles per hour rattled the city’s skyline. Thirty-four people were injured with no declared fatalities as of noon local time, Bloomberg reports.
On Saturday, the toll was far worse: Mangkhut tore across the Cagayan Valley of the Philippines’ Luzon island, a storm-prone agricultural region that produces mostly rice and corn, with winds and rain equivalent to a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane. While the impact took some edge off the storm, Mangkhut mustered more strength as it churned across the South China Sea.
An estimated 270,000 people were affected by the storm in the Philippines, with 150,000 people displaced, according to government statistics. The country was battered by sustained winds that reached 96 mph, with gusts of up to 118 mph, according to the Associated Press. At least 28 people were reportedly killed, mostly by landslides and collapsed buildings.
The storm made its closest brush with Hong Kong in the early afternoon, side-swiping the densely populated city on its way to China’s Guangdong province. The semiautonomous region braced for “fierce winds” and “intense” downpours as the storm moved west-northwest at roughly 8 miles per hour, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
Rainfall is expected to exceed 2 inches per hour and storm surges of up to 11.5 feet may reach the city’s central Victoria Harbor waterfront. Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu said city authorities should “prepare for the worst.”
“Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past,” Ka-chiu said, according to the Associated Press.
Residents have been advised not to go outside and many have prepared to shelter until the storm passes, reinforcing windows with tape and emptying grocery store shelves of all but a few non-essential items. Streets were empty Sunday as howling winds brought heaping rain against the city’s shuttered buildings.
More than 500 flights have been canceled affecting some 96,000 passengers, according to the South China Morning Post. Ferry services and most bus lines were also suspended, Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK reports.
More than 700 people sought relief in government storm shelters, according to RTHK, but many others in flood-prone coastal areas like Tai-O fishing village resolved to ride out the storm, fortifying their homes with flood barriers and hoping for minimal impact.
“My mum used to live on a boat,” one resident told the Post. “She knows if we will need to evacuate.”
The village on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island experienced catastrophic flooding during last year’s Typhoon Hato, which caused up to HK$8 million ($1 million) in damage. The nearby gambling enclave of Macau suffered extensive damage and at least nine deaths.
Taiwan was spared the brunt of the storm as Mangkhut tracked southwest, but its weather bureau said the island’s southernmost Pingtung county was soaked by more than three feet of rain. One woman is reportedly missing after being swept out to sea in Taiwan’s northeastern Yilan county.
Mangkhut made landfall again near the Chinese port city of Yangjiang shortly after 5:00p.m. local time Sunday evening, according to AP. Nearly half a million people have been evacuated from seven cities in Guangdong province, AP reports, while China’s National Meteorological Center issued a red alert hours before the storm is expected to collide with the mainland.
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