Mangkhut gradually moves away from Hong Kong, though wild weather persists

A taxi is abandoned in floodwaters during Super Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on September 16, 2018. Typhoon Mangkhut rocked Hong Kong en route to mainland China on September 16, injuring scores and sending skyscrapers swaying, after killing at least 30 people in the Philippines and ripping a swathe of destruction through its agricultural heartland. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony WALLACE

Severe Typhoon Mangkhut is gradually departing from Hong Kong, though ferocious wind and rain continues to batter the city, while low-lying areas remain “severely flooded.”

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, Mangkhut, the most powerful storm to hit the city in decades, is expected to make landfall over the coast to the west of the Pearl River Estuary this evening.

The weather service this evening ended what had been 10 hours with a No. 10 typhoon signal, reducing it at 7:40pm — just before this story was posted — to a No. 8 storm signal.

“At 7pm, Severe Typhoon Mangkhut was centered about 200 kilometers west of Hong Kong (near 22.0 degrees north 112.3 degrees east) and is forecast to move west-northwest at about 30 kilometers per hour into the inland area of western Guangdong,” the Observatory noted.

The city’s strongest storm signal had been in force since 9:40am.

Though local winds are beginning to weaken somewhat, “destructive southeasterly winds are still affecting parts of the territory.”

Water levels remain high. Victoria Harbour has reached about 3.9 meters above usual, though is dropping, while the water level at Tai O has reached about 3.8 meters above the norm. Over at Tsim Bei Tsui, the water level was about 4 meters above the norm.

The typhoon’s intense rainbands are continuing to lash Hong Kong with squalls and heavy rain.  In the past hour, the maximum sustained winds recorded at Cheung Chau were 131 kilometers per hour with maximum gusts 161 kilometers per hour.

At its strongest, Mangkhut brought sustained winds of up to 189 kilometers per hour, toppling cranes and scaffolding, snapping trees, knocking down signposts and strewing debris all over the city, as it came within 100 kilometres of the Hong Kong coast.

With gusts of more than 230 kilometres per hour, the storm left over 100 injured, according to government figures.

According to the Hospital Authority, as at 5pm, a total of 213 people, including 117 men and 96 women, have sought medical treatment at public hospitals during the typhoon period.

Meanwhile, the 1823 Government Call Centre has received 179 reports of fallen trees and the Drainage Services Department has received 26 confirmed flooding cases.

Flooding was reported in areas including Lei Yue Mun, Heng Fa Chuen, and Tai O,.

In the latter, a fishing village on the edge of Lantau island where many people live in stilt houses built over the sea, some desperately tried to bail out their inundated homes.

“Floodwater is rushing into my home but I’m continuously shovelling the water out. It’s a race against time,” resident Lau King-cheung told AFP by phone.

According to the Civil Engineering and Development Department and Lands Department, no report of landslide has been received.

The Home Affairs Department has so far opened 48 temporary shelters in various districts and 1219 people have sought refuge at the shelters.

Given the clean-up ahead, the Education Bureau has announced class suspension of all schools tomorrow (Sept. 17) regardless of whether any storm warnings are still in force.

With reporting from AFP.

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