Hong Kong's Top 10... Typhoons
There have been devastating typhoons hitting Hong Kong for, like, ever. But the first one which took the world by (ahem) storm hit us on September 22 and 23, 1874. This monster made front-page headlines across the globe as more than 2,000 people were injured and many killed. Trees were uprooted, communication lines stopped dead and villages destroyed. A terrible tragedy – but nowhere near the worst over the past 150 years.
The 1874 incident made the city protect itself against the might of the typhoon. But, nevertheless, on September 18, 1906, we were taken by surprise. There was almost no indication of the approaching typhoon until just 15 minutes before it hit and then, in just two hours, a staggering five percent of the population (up to 10,000 people) died. Buildings and piers lay in ruin. Hong Kong was destroyed. But there was still worse to come 30 years later...
The Great Hong Kong Typhoon exploded like a nuclear bomb in Hong Kong on September 2. Over 11,000 died. Ocean vessels were blown ashore on Connaught Road. Small boats in the harbour were literally torn apart, fuelling the high winds with powerful flying debris. An 18ft tidal wave laid waste to almost all of Sha Tin and Tai Po. Today, we couldn’t even imagine such a truly devastating scene.
Also known as Bloody Mary, Typhoon Mary, hitting us between June 3 and 12, 1960, was a vicious nightmare. Strong winds lifted large ship freighters out of the water and hurled them on to the land. Mudslides and floods in HK and Southern China meant 100 died and another 18,000 were left homeless.
Wanda did anything but. She surged into the city on September 1 with her 260km/h winds which, in combination with a high storm surge, flooded many homes, villages and huts, leaving more than 72,000 people homeless. Fishing vessels were literally blown from the water into the streets and 2,000 boats were left damaged, with a total of 434 deaths recorded.
We don’t look at Rose through tinted glasses. She came in August, bringing an ominous fog – rare for a typhoon. When she was in full force, though, 300 ships were damaged including a ferry carrying 92 passengers. Only four survived. Damaged telephone wires left 30,000 people without communication and a fire in a Kwun Tong substation left many without electricity, with thousands trapped in elevators.
Ellen caused 10 deaths, 333 injuries and left 1,600 homeless in August and September. A total of 26 ships ran aground. The famous Osprey, from Jackie Chan’s Project A, sunk with nine young sailors on board. One survived. Livestock and crop damage totalled $50m. Water supplies were cut off in Mei Foo and blackouts lasted for up to four days in Kowloon and the New Territories.
When York marched in on September 16 and 17, the T10 signal was hoisted for a record length of 11 hours, during which winds uprooted more than 4,300 trees, shattered over 400 windows in the Revenue, Immigration and Wan Chai Towers, tore apart 800 signboards and blew a crane off a roof, which fell 30 stories and struck a 10-storey flat before crashing into the road. Two people died.
Last year’s big typhoon was the first to notch up T10 status since York. Powerful winds uprooted 8,800 trees in July and main roads were blocked. The damage caused by toppled trees halted MTR services. A station was even turned into a shelter for a night. But, thankfully, things have come a long way since 1874 and, while more than 140 people were injured, there were no recorded deaths.
Okay, so hardly as devastating as the other nine giants, we still want to mention Utor as this T8 popped in August, 2013. It was pretty vicious in the Philippines but had lost momentum by the time it reached us. But that didn’t stop the airport cancelling and delaying 518 flights in and out of the city. And while police were attending to the storm, bandits allegedly stole more than $200,000 worth of possessions from city homes. But, when a Mainlander riding on the Star Ferry somehow fell overboard, a Hong Kong woman who was out jogging in TST jumped in and saved him. In a typhoon. Every cloud and all that... Ying Lo