Published: 10:38, September 8, 2023 | Updated: 10:16, September 9, 2023
132 hurt, Hong Kong flooded in 'once in a century' rainstorm
By Shadow Li

A police officer helps a taxi driver get out of the vehicle on a flooded road in Taipo, Hong Kong, on Sept 8, 2023. The Hong Kong Observatory issued the Black Rainstorm Warning signal late on Sept 7, as record-breaking rain inundated the city. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG - More than a hundred people were injured, four seriously, as Typhoon Haikui brought a savage rainstorm to Hong Kong, shattering a 139-year-old record and causing widespread flooding, prompting the chief secretary to dub it a "once-in-a-century" phenomenon. 

Eric Chan Kwok-ki, chief secretary for administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, said the "once-in-a-century" extreme weather conditions would last at least until midnight

The financial hub was brought to a standstill Friday as the Hong Kong Observatory recorded an hourly rainfall of 158.1 mm between 11 pm on Thursday and midnight  – the highest since 1884 when recordkeeping started. The observatory said Hong Kong recorded 600 mm of rainfall in the past 24 hours. Since Thursday evening, torrential rain brought on by a trough of low pressure associated with the remnants of Typhoon Haikui lashed the city, inundating it, leading to waterlogging, landslides and casualties. By 1:15 pm Friday, the city had recorded 132 injuries, according to the Hospital Authority. 

IN PHOTOS: Record rain brings HK to a standstill

Speaking at a cross-departmental press conference on Friday afternoon, Eric Chan Kwok-ki, chief secretary for administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, said the "once-in-a-century" extreme weather conditions would last at least until midnight. 

The authorities dismissed claims that the flooding could be related to the discharge of water from Shenzhen Reservoir since midnight. The Security Bureau said water levels of rivers in the vicinity did not go up significantly and while evacuation had been carried out across six Hong Kong villages, those did not suffer serious flooding. 

The government received 20 reports of landslide, with six sites already inspected and appropriate action taken, the authorities said. They expected to attend the high-risk sites within Friday. 

The Security Bureau reported that police and the Fire Services Department received 718 and 343 calls for assistance, respectively, and most had been handled. More than 130 abandoned vehicles were spotted with half of them already towed away.

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Government departments were instructed to respond with all-out flood control efforts. The Emergency Monitoring and Support Center under the Security Bureau was activated at 11:05 pm on Thursday with the disciplined services handling emergency requests. Teams from a number of government departments, including the Drainage Services Department (DSD), the Highways Department (HyD), the Home Affairs Department (HAD) and other departments were deployed to take response actions across the city. 

A pedestrian walks past the wreckage of a vessel as more floats in a swollen Lam Tsuen River, in Taipo, Hong Kong on Sept 8, 2023. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)

The HAD activated its Emergency Coordination Center right after the Black Rainstorm Warning Signal was issued at 11:05 pm on Thursday, and opened the first temporary shelter at 11:35 pm. As of Friday noon, 315 people had sought refuge at the city’s 15 temporary shelters. 

The city's highest Black Rainstorm Warning issued at 11:05 pm on Thursday is expected to be in force till 6 pm Friday, making it the longest black rainstorm warning in place since 1884

Early Friday, a spokesman for the HKSAR government urged members of the public to stay indoors and away from low-lying areas. The observatory urged the public to seek safe shelter and avoid traveling as heavy rain was expected to fall generally all over Hong Kong, exceeding 70 mm in an hour, and likely to continue.

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Several metro stations and pedestrian tunnels were inundated. All-day schools were suspended on Friday. 

The city's highest Black Rainstorm Warning issued at 11:05 pm on Thursday was downgraded to amber at 3.40 pm Friday, making it the longest black rainstorm warning in place since 1884. The observatory cancelled all signals at 4.45 pm. The previous record was for five hours and 47 minutes on Aug 23, 1999.

As of 7 am on Friday, 44 confirmed reports of waterlogging were received, with knee-high water in Kowloon’s major thoroughfares. With flooding reported across vast swathes of Hong Kong, public transportation remained severely disrupted. MTR Corporation, which operates the city's rail network, said at least one line was shut while others were operating with delays.  

A hapless passenger rests on a bench at a bus stop in Tsim Sha Tsui, as torrential rain brings Hong Kong to a standstill on Sept 8, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

The Kowloon Motor Bus started running limited service from 9 am on Friday. Long Win Bus would only provide limited service along S1, S64C and S64X routes. Sun Ferry also announced to provide limited service from North Point to Hung Hom and Kowloon City. Some passenger and cargo clearance points at two border control points between Hong Kong and neighboring city Shenzhen were suspended due to flooding, the government said. 

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu expressed his concern about severe flooding in most parts of the territory. 

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Macao ferry operators in Hong Kong said several ferry trips would be suspended to the neighboring SAR owing to widespread flooding in the financial center.

Macao's weather bureau issued the lowest "yellow" rainstorm warning on Friday which allows schools and businesses, including the casinos to open as normal.

Neighboring cities of Shenzhen and Dongguan were also severely hit by the rainstorm, with underground stations submerged, transport disrupted and schools suspended.

With inputs from Agencies