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Typhoon Mangkhut Jolts Hong Kong and Marches Into China

Category: Asia,World

HONG KONG — Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall on the southeastern coast of China on Sunday, after battering Hong Kong with winds of up to 100 miles an hour, sweeping through the city’s canyons of tall buildings and causing 11-foot storm surges in Victoria Harbor.

In southern China, the storm made landfall around 5 p.m. on the coast of Jiangmen City, in Guangdong Province, packing winds of 100 miles, or 160 kilometers, an hour, the official news agency Xinhua reported. State news media said that 100,000 people had been evacuated.

The typhoon was expected to weaken as it passed over mainland China, but it has already taken a considerable toll: Landslides in the Philippines buried dozens, including people sheltering in a church and a dormitory for miners, and the death toll there was expected to rise sharply as rescue workers began moving in.

[Follow the latest updates on Typhoon Mangkhut in our live briefing]

For Hong Kong, a city that can be blasé about tropical storms, Mangkhut was different. The typhoon picked up speed as it crossed the South China Sea from its deadly march through the Philippines, landing a direct hit on Hong Kong at midday Sunday.

By then, the city’s normally teeming streets were clear of people and cars, as residents heeded the local weather authority’s signal 10 storm warning — its highest level. For the first time ever, Macau, the Asian gambling capital nearby, closed its casinos because of a storm.

Hong Kong Airport, a central transit point for much of Asia, was virtually shut down, with almost 1,000 flights canceled or delayed The outdoor sections of the city’s vaunted subway system were taken out of service, and high-speed rail in the neighboring Chinese province of Guangdong was also shut down.

The intensity of the storm in Hong Kong tested a city that has developed intricate safeguards against typhoons. The city’s mountainous terrain typically hinders flooding, with retaining walls on steep slopes preventing deadly landslides.

But on Sunday, they were in danger of failing, leading the Hong Kong Observatory to issue a landslide warning, asking people to stay away from steep hills and retaining walls, and issuing evacuation notices to residents living in areas prone to landslides. Temporary shelters were opened.

Hong Kong residents had prepared for the storm by stocking up on groceries the night before, clearing shelves of many items and leading some merchants to raise the price of the tape people use on windows to contain damage. On Sunday, most residents hunkered down in their apartments, while those in more flood-prone areas took refuge in shelters.

As the storm bore down, people took to Facebook and WhatsApp messaging groups, circulating pictures of the hurried preparations: cars and motorcycles mummified with cling wrap, indoor storefronts encased with spiderweb-like tape. One Instagram user altered an image to add Spider-Man onto the side of a Hong Kong building, where he’d pitched in by putting tape on a window.

But as the storm unleashed its full force, the postings became more ominous. Videos showed glass windows and doors smashing, pedestrians being blown off the ground and residents frantically scooping rain out of their balconies to prevent flooding.

In the neighborhood of Mong Kok, video captured the collapse of a crane at a construction site, but no injuries were reported.

Fearsome winds caused storm surges as high as 11 feet in Victoria Harbor, which separates Hong Kong Island from the rest of the city. The winds in Hong Kong started to die down in the afternoon as the typhoon headed toward the Pearl River estuary in Guangdong Province, whose cluster of megacities are considered particularly prone to climate change. The province is home to more than 100 million people.

[Read more about how rising waters threaten China’s growing cities]

Lily Chiu, a 60-year-old caregiver in Hong Kong, had stayed overnight at the nursing home where she worked to avoid commuting to an early shift when the storm hit. Other than the tape on the windows of residents’ rooms, it had been a normal day at work, with hot meals running on schedule, but something was different.

“These last few hours felt more severe than other typhoons I had experienced,” she said, after speakers announced that train services to the station near her home had been suspended because of the storm. She prepared to walk home.

In the eastern Hong Kong neighborhood of Henf Fa Chien, residents of a flooded housing complex linked arms and held hands as they waded knee-deep through pools of rainwater that doused the streets, parking lots and stores in low-lying area.

“How am I going to go home?” one person asked helplessly into a phone.

“Heng Fa Chuen has become a water reservoir,” May Siu, a longtime resident said. “I’ve lived here 30 years, and these storms only started looking like this with Hato last year,” she said, referring to the biggest typhoon last year.

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