Storm leaves a trail of destruction

MACAU: A fireman (C) is seen next to a fire truck in a cordoned off residential area in Macau on August 24, 2017, a day after Typhoon Hato hit the city. – AFP

MACAU: The death toll from Severe Typhoon Hato rose to at least 16 yesterday after the storm left a trail of destruction across southern China, blacking out Macau's mega-casinos and battering Hong Kong's skyscrapers. Eight died in the gambling hub of Macau, where images showed cars underwater and people swimming along streets. The enclave's famed mega-casinos were running on backup generators.

A man was killed by a wall that was blown down, another fell from a fourth-floor terrace and one was hit by a truck. The Macau government said two bodies were found in a flooded car park early yesterday, and that two more died when they were trapped in the basement of their shop. Details of the remaining death was not immediately available.

Footage published yesterday on the website of Apple Daily showed water gushing into an underground car park, with people wading through neck-deep water littered with debris as one man shouted in panic. It was not clear if it was the same car park where the bodies had been found. "I have never seen Macau like this since I came here in the 70s," a taxi driver aged in his 50s who gave his name as Lao told AFP. "It's like they were trying to gamble with their luck," Lao said adding that authorities had reacted too slowly and did too little to alert residents of the coming storm.

Blacked-out slot machines were seen at the largely empty Wynn Macau casino where there was no air conditioning and a musty atmosphere. However, a few dozen gamblers ignored the heat and tried their luck at four baccarat tables. A staff member at the enclave's sprawling Venetian resort said yesterday its casino and shops were open, but there was no air conditioning. A source had said on Wednesday that the complex was running on back-up power.

But at the Grand Lisboa Hotel in central Macau, an employee told AFP it was still without electricity and water and that its casino and restaurants were closed. The city's gambling industry generated over 220 billion patacas ($27.29 billion) in revenue in 2016, over half of its annual GDP, as it hosted more than 30 million visitors. Debris was scattered on roads and a shipping container was washed up on its side in front of a temple.

Thousands evacuated

Streets were lined with trash and shattered glass and residents holding plastic buckets queued for water from fire hydrants. "We've been going without water and electricity for more than 24 hours. It's so hot," May Lee, in her 40s, who was in line for water, told AFP, adding that there was not even water for flushing the toilet. Ferry services between Macau and Hong Kong resumed yesterday morning but passengers said they experienced delays.

In Hong Kong, Hato-whose name is Japanese for "pigeon"-sparked the most severe Typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years. The city could have suffered losses of HK$8 billion ($1.02 billion), Chinese University of Hong Kong economics professor Terence Chong told AFP, referring to the value of its daily GDP. More than 120 were injured as the city was lashed with hurricane winds and pounding rain.

In the neighboring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, at least eight people have died, state broadcaster CCTV reported, while around 27,000 were evacuated to temporary shelters, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nearly two million households were briefly without power. CCTV said four of the mainland deaths had occurred in Zhuhai, three in Zhongshan and one in Jiangmen. In Zhuhai which borders Macau, some 275 homes had collapsed, with the typhoon causing an estimated 5.5 billion yuan ($826 million) in damage, according to state-run Beijing News.

Hato was downgraded to a tropical depression yesterday afternoon as it travelled further into China Hong Kong and the surrounding region is regularly battered by typhoons between July and October. The city saw its strongest storm in 1962 when the eye of Typhoon Wanda passed over and gusts of 284 kilometers per hour were recorded. It killed 130 and left 72,000 people homeless in Hong Kong alone. - AFP