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Foreign News: Hong Kong Typhoon

2 minute read

Like the famed harbor of Rio de Janeiro, which it rivals in magnificence, the harbor of Hong Kong, British Crown Colony, is landlocked by mountains.

Hong Kong itself is an island topped with ”The Peak” (1,774 ft.), on the landward side of which clings the city of Victoria—a colorful jumble of Chinese tenements and British business blocks whose over-dignified architecture justifies the city’s name.

Hong Kong harbor, seventh busiest in the world, is always alive with yachts, junks, ferries, sampans, freighters, liners, men-of-war. Last week it was more than usually jampacked with shipping taking refuge from Shanghai’s war 1,000 miles to the north. Suddenly in from the China Sea blasted the worst typhoon in ten years. So furious was the wind that observatory instruments, capable of registering up to 125 m.p.h., broke down.

At least 18 ocean liners and other big vessels—including Italy’s 18,765-ton Conte Verde, Japan’s 16,975-ton Asama Maru—were ripped from their storm moorings, slammed ashore. The On Lee, a 1,026-ton coastal vessel, was smashed against the British cruiser Süffolk, bounced back like a ping-pong ball into the British destroyer Duchess, rammed through a wharf, piled up ashore at the foot of a waterfront street. At least 20 ships were reported sunk—four of them big ones—including Britain’s Hunan, carrying 1,200 Chinese refugees from Shanghai.

Hundreds of fishing vessels and small Chinese houseboats were splintered against the sea wall and the rocky coast. Screaming coolies were catapulted into the seething water, many to be drowned, few to be saved by a life line of rope-tethered police and customs officers who strove spunkily, but hopelessly, against the storm.

Hong Kong’s business section became a sordid shambles as the wind tumbled walls, roofs, windows, shop signs. Motorcar parts flew like pebbles. Steel lampposts were bent almost at right angles. A waist-high flood of stinking water and mud seeped turgidly through the waterfront streets.

Though the typhoon had spent itself after six hours there was left behind a trail of fires and cholera. At week’s end, British officials were still trying to assess casualties and damages, despondently gave out that at least 600 lives had been lost, that the typhoon had cost about 1,000,000 Hong Kong dollars ($300,000).

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