The most severe typhoon in half a century swept into Macau on August 23 causing unprecedented loss of life and damage to infrastructure throughout the city. The Signal No.10 typhoon, the highest category in Macau’s official storm index, killed 10 people, plunged the city into darkness and resulted in a critical shortage of food and water not seen in generations.
Typhoon Hato struck initially in the early hours of the morning and brought with it torrents of seawater that flooded the city and a number of underground car parks, leading to many of the fatalities.
Almost the entire city was plunged into darkness in the late afternoon as a power cable supplying electricity from Zhuhai was ruptured and storm clouds cast a dark shadow over Macau.
Though the general supply of utilities was restored to most of the city within the first 24 hours, some neighborhoods were still without power and water several days later.
Macau locals stocked up on food and water in the immediate aftermath, emptying supermarket shelves. Unscrupulous individuals capitalized on the shortage, reportedly selling two small bottles of water for as much as MOP150.
Other residents were spotted illegally raiding fire hydrants for water, despite government warnings that it might lead to abnormal pressure demands on the system and that the water was not fit for consumption.
The role of Macau’s Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau (SMG) was widely criticized by the public – specifically its failure to raise an appropriate and timely warning of Hato’s severity. It was not the first time that a warning issued by the bureau had been inaccurate or unreliable.
The government was quick to respond to the criticism. On August 24, the chief executive forcibly removed SMG chief Fong Soi Kun from his post and suggested that an investigation into the former director would follow.
The government also announced compensation for the deceased, the injured and those with economic losses, and opened investigations into several elderly residents who had allegedly propagated rumors on social media about a government cover-up of further, unreported fatalities.
A second severe typhoon, Pakhar, struck Macau just a few days later, dealing another blow to the bewildered city still reeling from Hato.