Typhoon Mangkhut barreled into southern China earlier today after lashing the northern Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left at least 28 dead from landslides and drownings.
Nearly half a million people had been evacuated from seven cities in China’s Guangdong province, the gambling enclave of Macau closed casinos for the first time and the Hong Kong Observatory warned people to stay away from the Victoria Harbour landmark, where storm surges battered the sandbag-reinforced waterfront.
Mangkhut made landfall in the city of Taishan in Guangdong province at 5 p.m. local time, packing wind speeds of 162 kilometers (100 miles) per hour. State television broadcaster CGTN reported that surging waves flooded a seaside hotel in the city of Shenzhen.
Authorities in southern China had issued a red alert, the most severe warning, as the national meteorological center said the densely populated region would face a “severe test caused by wind and rain” and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.
On Sunday morning, the typhoon packed sustained winds of 155 kilometers (96 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 190 kph (118 mph). The Hong Kong Observatory said although Mangkhut had weakened slightly, its extensive, intense rainbands were bringing heavy downfall and frequent squalls.
Hundreds of flights were canceled. All high-speed and some normal rail services in Guangdong and Hainan provinces were also halted, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Co. said.
In Hong Kong, a video posted online by residents showed the top corner of an old building break and fall off while in another video, a tall building swayed as strong winds blew.
The storm also broke windows, felled trees, tore bamboo scaffolding off buildings under construction and flooded areas with sometimes waist-high waters, according to the South China Morning Post.
The paper said the heavy rains brought storm surges of 3 meters (10 feet) around Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst.
“Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past,” Lee said. “Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst.”
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific said all of its flights would be canceled between 2:30 a.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday. The city of Shenzhen also canceled all flights between Sunday and early Monday morning. Hainan Airlines canceled 234 flights in the cities of Haikou, Sanya, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai scheduled this weekend.
In Macau, next door to Hong Kong, casinos were ordered to close from 11 p.m. Saturday, the first time such action was taken in the city, the South China Morning Post reported. Macau suffered catastrophic flooding during Typhoon Hato last year, leading to accusations of corruption and incompetence at its meteorological office.
In Macau’s inner harbor district on Sunday, the water level reached 1.5 meters (5 feet) and was expected to rise further. The district was one of the most affected by floods from Typhoon Hato, which left 10 people dead.
In Fujian province and other parts of southern China, tens of thousands of fishing boats returned to port and construction work came to a stop.
The Philippines, which was battered by the typhoon on Saturday, appeared to be spared the high number of casualties many had feared. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines. But preparations ahead of Mangkhut seemed to pay off, with about 87,000 people evacuating from high-risk areas.
Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde told The Associated Press that 20 people had died in the Cordillera mountain region, four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province and another outside of the two regions. Three more deaths were reported in northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon made landfall before dawn Saturday.
The typhoon struck at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in the northern breadbasket, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said.
Vincent Yu, Jim Gomez, AP