MORE THAN 420 flights in and out of Hong Kong have been cancelled as the worst storm in five years hits the southeast corner of China.
Typhoon Hato, a maximum category 10 storm, slammed into Hong Kong on Wednesday lashing the Asian financial hub with destructive winds and waves which uprooted trees, flooded streets and forced most businesses to close.
Schools, businesses and the Hong Kong stock exchange were closed as Hato bore down on the city, the first category 10 storm to hit Hong Kong since Typhoon Vicente in 2012. Typhoon Nida last August was the last storm to close the exchange for the whole day.
Hato churned up Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour and triggered large swells and massive waves on some of the city’s most popular beaches, with serious flooding in low-lying areas.
In residential districts like Heng Fa Chuen on densely populated Hong Kong island, massive waves smashed against the sides of oceanfront buildings and surged over a promenade, swamping vehicles parked nearby.
Construction cranes swayed precipitously from the tops of skyscrapers, trees toppled and residents deployed canoes to get around on some streets.
“I’ve never seen one like this,” said Garrett Quigley, a long-time resident of Lantau island to the west of the city.
“Cars are half submerged and roads are impassable with flooding and huge trees down. It’s crazy.”
Meanwhile, thousands of Chinese were evacuated from coastal areas ahead of Hato hitting the mainland. Chinese authorities are directing citizens to stockpile enough supplies for one to three days, reported the state news agency Xinhua.
It is China’s 13th typhoon this year and expected to batter the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong.
Maximum winds near Hato’s centre were recorded at a destructive 155kmh. A senior scientific officer for the Hong Kong observatory said sea levels could rise up to 5m in some places, with the government issuing flood alerts and opening 27 temporary shelters across the city.
The city’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, said the storm would “severely” impact flight operations, with most flights to and from Hong Kong between 2200 GMT Tuesday and 0900 GMT Wednesday to be cancelled.
Other transport services, including ferries to the gaming hub of Macau and outlying islands in Hong Kong, were suspended.
Additional reporting by Reuters