Death toll in Philippine typhoon rises to 10 as storm moves off

MANILA (Reuters) – The death toll from a typhoon that hit provinces south of the Philippine capital rose to 10, disaster agencies said on Wednesday, pointing to precautions and compulsory evacuations as key in preventing more casualties.

Typhoon Kammuri, the 20th to enter the Philippines this year, hit land on Monday night, prompting forced evacuation of thousands of residents and cancellation of hundreds of flights. It also disrupted the schedule for some events in the Southeast Asian Games, which the Philippines is hosting until Dec. 11.

Five people died in the central Bicol region, including three who drowned, a local disaster agency said in a report. Five more were killed in a region south of the capital.

Around 345,000 people are still in evacuation centers, awaiting authorities’ clearance for them to return home, disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal told broadcaster ANC.

“The storm left the usual damage of major storms such as fallen trees, ruined roofs of houses and some government facilities,” Timbal said. Officials said forced evacuations and preparations prevented greater loss of life.

Sustained winds of Kammuri weakened to 100 kilometers per hour (67 miles per hour), with gusts of up to 125 kph (78 mph) as it heads toward the South China Sea. It is set to leave the Philippines on Wednesday night, the state weather bureau said.

An average of 20 typhoons annually hit the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Rescuers search waist-high muddy waters for missing people in typhoon-hit Japan

By Kwiyeon Ha and Kyung Hoon Kim

NAGANO, Japan (Reuters) – Rescue workers waded through muddy, waist-high waters on Monday searching for missing people after one of the worst typhoons to hit Japan in recent history, while rain fell again in some affected areas, stoking fears of further flooding.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said vast areas had been struck by the storm and called for urgent support to those affected.

At least 56 people were killed in the typhoon, which left vast sections of towns in central and eastern Japan under water, with another 15 missing and 211 injured, public broadcaster NHK said.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers and a fleet of helicopters fanned out in the affected areas, officials said.

“There still are many residents who have yet to be accounted for. Our people in uniform are working day and night in search and rescue operations,” Abe told an emergency meeting of ministers.

“Damage has been made in an extremely wide range of areas, and more than 30,000 people are still being forced to remain in the state of evacuation. It is our urgent task to offer meticulous support to those who have been affected.”

Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, made landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu on Saturday and headed out to sea early on Sunday.

Groups of rescuers wearing goggles and snorkels looked for survivors while making their way in waist-high water in Nagano, central Japan, where the Chikuma River inundated swathes of land. A middle-aged man in Nagano, asked about the situation around his house, told NHK: “It’s just like a lake.”

Yoshinobu Tsuchiya, 69, returned on Monday morning to his home in Nagano city, near where the Chikuma had breached its banks, to find that his first floor had been flooded and that the garden he tended had turned to brown mud.

“So this is what it’s come to,” Tsuchiya sighed to the Nikkei newspaper. “I can’t even imagine when we’ll finish cleaning up. I’m sick of this flood.”

A neighbour in his 60s told the newspaper: “This is just like a tsunami. This is hopeless.”

At a second emergency meeting on Monday, Abe urged ministers to do their utmost to help evacuees return to normal life as soon as possible.

More than 110,000 police officers, firefighters, soldiers and coastguard personnel, as well as some 100 helicopters, were mobilised for Monday’s rescue operations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Heavy rain was forecast for Monday night in some parts of central and eastern Japan, where soil is already loosened by record-breaking downpours from the typhoon, prompting Suga to urge residents to keep their guard up.

“Rain is expected in affected areas today. Because of the rain we have seen so far, levels of water are high in some rivers and soil is loose in some areas,” Suga said. “Please remain on your guard for landslides and river overflows.”

A Nagano city official said there were some showers by early afternoon, although they were not heavy.

Some parts of Japan saw about one third of their average annual precipitation just over the weekend, causing 37 rivers to break their banks, NHK said.

More than 77,000 households were still without power by mid-afternoon on Monday, a national holiday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. That was down from 262,000 households as of midday on Sunday.

Also, about 136,000 households were without running water as of Monday morning, Suga said.

In Fukushima, north of the capital, Tokyo Electric Power Co <9501.T> reported nine cases of irregular readings from sensors monitoring water over the weekend at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

But a Tokyo Electric official said on Monday eight of the irregular readings were triggered by rainwater, and the other one by a malfunction of a monitor, and that there was no leakage of contaminated water.

(Reporting by Kyung Hoon Kim, Kwiyeon Ha; Writing by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

U.S. Pacific islands brace for long recovery after ‘catastrophic’ typhoon

A downed power line sits on a damaged building after Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S., October 25, 2018 in this image taken from social media. Brad Ruszala via REUTE

(Reuters) – Authorities in the Northern Mariana Islands called for urgent supplies and equipment on Friday and were preparing for weeks without power after being hit by their most powerful typhoon in half a century, killing one woman and causing widespread destruction.

Super Typhoon Yutu, a category five storm, struck the U.S. Western Pacific territory overnight on Wednesday, pulling down hundreds of electricity poles, damaging homes and commercial properties and the international airport on Saipan, located about 6,000 km (3,700 miles) west of Hawaii.

A damaged structure is seen at Saipan International Airport after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S., October 25, 2018 in this image taken from social media. Brad Ruszala via REUTERS

A damaged structure is seen at Saipan International Airport after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S., October 25, 2018 in this image taken from social media. Brad Ruszala via REUTERS

On the island of Tinian, which took a direct hit from Yutu, the mayor asked for tools, machetes and chainsaws to help clear debris and urged residents to be patient and conserve fuel, food and water as emergency supplies had yet to arrive.

“Please be calm, help is on its way,” mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas said in a Facebook Live video.

“Our stores are not opening, restaurants have been destroyed and we are left with what we have in our refrigerators in our homes. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of emergency of military aircraft.”

With winds of about 270 kph (168 mph), Yutu was the strongest typhoon seen in the archipelago of 52,000 people since 1968, according to governor Ralph Torres.

He said a long recovery period was ahead and he was pressing the central government for a major disaster to be declared and approved by U.S. President Donald Trump, so the Marianas could receive federal disaster assistance.

Torres said a 44-year-old woman in Saipan had been killed while sheltering in an abandoned building that collapsed.

“This is an unfortunate incident,” he said, adding that authorities were focusing on saving and preserving lives.

“Our first responders remain vigilant and (are) working around the clock.”

U.S. health secretary, Alex Azar, declared a public health emergency for the islands on Thursday to boost access to medical care after what he described as a “catastrophic” storm.

Water pipes were damaged and all flights to Saipan’s airport halted. Images on social media showed some buildings near the airport leveled by the storm, beneath them crushed vehicles and debris scattered over large areas.

Some 200-300 power poles had been toppled, and 400-500 were leaning. Authorities requested at least 700 replacements and transformers and said restoring power to pump water was top priority.

Yutu was traveling at 20 kph on Friday, with winds of 180 kph and gusts 220 kph and headed toward the northern Philippines, where the state weather agency said it could make landfall early on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Martin Petty in Manila; Editing by Michael Perry)

Japan braces as typhoon charts course for main island

Super typhoon Trami is seen from the International Space Station as it moves in the direction of Japan, September 25, 2018 in this image obtained from social media on September 26, 2018. ESA/NASA-A.Gerst/via REUTERS

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan braced for high winds and heavy rain as a typhoon roared north on Friday, enveloping outlying islands in high seas before taking aim at the rest of the nation and raking across its biggest main island at the weekend.

Typhoon Trami, rated category 2 by Tropical Storm Risk, with category 5 the highest, is the latest storm to threaten Japan in a year filled with more than the usual number of disasters, including punishing heat, heavy rains, and landslides.

Less than a month ago, a typhoon flooded Kansai International airport near Osaka, leaving thousands of tourists stranded.

Outlying islands in the Okinawan chain, some 1,000 km southwest of Tokyo, were being pounded by heavy seas and strong winds, just two days before an Okinawan gubernatorial election, forcing some areas to hold voting early. The central government set up an emergency office to deal with the storm.

Trami was about 300 km (186 miles) southeast of Miyako island, with winds gusting as high as 216 kilometers an hour (134 mph).

Churning north across Okinawa on Saturday, Trami is then predicted to rake across the islands of Kyushu and the main island of Honshu on Sunday, a path similar to that taken by typhoon Jebi early in September.

Though the Japanese capital of Tokyo is set for heavy rain, current predictions show it avoiding a direct hit.

Jebi, the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years, brought some of the highest tides since a 1961 typhoon and flooded Kansai airport near Osaka, taking it out of service for days.

Seventeen people died in the storm, whose high winds sent trees crashing to the ground and cars scudding across parking lots.

Even for a nation accustomed to disasters, this year has been hard for Japan, starting with a volcanic eruption in January that rained rocks down on a ski resort, killing one.

July brought record-breaking heat that killed at least 80 people and sent over 20,000 to the hospital for treatment, along with torrential rains in western Japan that set off floods and landslides, killing more than 200.

Just two days after Jebi hit in September, the northernmost main island of Hokkaido was rocked by an earthquake that set off landslides, knocked out power throughout the island and killed at least 44 people.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Japan begins clean-up after typhoon kills 11; major airport closed

Vehicles damaged by Typhoon Jebi are seen in Kobe, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 5, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Kaori Kaneko

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan began on Wednesday to clean up after a powerful typhoon killed 11 people, injured hundreds and stranded thousands at a flooded airport, though when the airport in an industrial and tourist hub might reopen was not clear.

Typhoon Jebi, or “swallow” in Korean, was briefly a super typhoon and was the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years. It came after months of heavy rain, landslides, floods and record-breaking heat that killed hundreds of people this summer.

Passengers stranded at Kansai International Airport due to powerful typhoon Jebi queue outside the airport as they wait for the arrival of a special bus service to transport them out of the area, in Izumisato, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 5, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Passengers stranded at Kansai International Airport due to powerful typhoon Jebi queue outside the airport as they wait for the arrival of a special bus service to transport them out of the area, in Izumisato, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 5, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

About 3,000 tourists were stuck overnight at Kansai Airport in western Japan, an important hub for companies exporting semiconductors built on reclaimed land on a bay near Osaka and connected to the mainland by a bridge that was damaged when a tanker slammed into it during the storm.

But by afternoon many people had been rescued by bus or ferried by ship from the airport, where puddles still stood on the main runway after it was inundated on Tuesday.

“More than anything else, I really want to take a bath,” one woman told NHK public television.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday afternoon about 470 people were injured. It was uncertain when the airport would reopen and some roads and train lines in the affected areas were still closed, he said.

But the number of households without power had been roughly halved to 530,000.

“The government will continue to do everything possible to tackle these issues with utmost urgency,” Suga told a news conference earlier.

A bridge connecting Kansai airport, damaged by crashing with a 2,591-tonne tanker, which is sent by strong wind caused by Typhoon Jebi, is seen in Izumisano, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 5, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

A bridge connecting Kansai airport, damaged by crashing with a 2,591-tonne tanker, which is sent by strong wind caused by Typhoon Jebi, is seen in Izumisano, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 5, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Japan’s JXTG Nippon Oil Energy Corp shut at least one refining units at its 135,000 barrels-per-day Sakai refinery in Osaka due to typhoon damage to part of the cooling tower, the trade ministry said.

Many chip plants operate in the Kansai region. Toshiba Memory, the world’s second-largest maker of flash memory chips, was monitoring developments closely and may need to ship products from other airports if Kansai remains closed, a spokeswoman said.

She said the company was not expecting a major impact because its plant in Yokkaichi in central Japan had not been affected by the typhoon.

It could take several days to a week to reopen Kansai airport depending on the damage, the Yomiuri newspaper quoted an unidentified person in the airline industry as saying.

Winds that in many places gusted to the highest ever recorded in Japan, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, left a swathe of damage, with fruit and vegetables, many about to be harvested, hit especially hard.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was criticized in July for an initially slow response to devastating floods that month, posted updates on the rescue efforts at Kansai.

Jebi’s course brought it close to parts of western Japan hit by rains and flooding in July that killed more than 200 people, but most of the damage this time appeared to be from the wind.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori, Makiko Yamazaki, Chang-Ran Kim, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)

Tepco’s ‘ice wall’ fails to freeze Fukushima’s toxic water buildup

By Aaron Sheldrick and Malcolm Foster

OKUMA, Japan (Reuters) – A costly “ice wall” is failing to keep groundwater from seeping into the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, data from operator Tokyo Electric Power Co shows, preventing it from removing radioactive melted fuel at the site seven years after the disaster.

When the ice wall was announced in 2013, Tepco assured skeptics that it would limit the flow of groundwater into the plant’s basements, where it mixes with highly radioactive debris from the site’s reactors, to “nearly nothing.”

However, since the ice wall became fully operational at the end of August, an average of 141 metric tonnes a day of water has seeped into the reactor and turbine areas, more than the average of 132 metric tonnes a day during the prior nine months, a Reuters analysis of the Tepco data showed.

The groundwater seepage has delayed Tepco’s clean-up at the site and may undermine the entire decommissioning process for the plant, which was battered by a tsunami seven years ago this Sunday. Waves knocked out power and triggered meltdowns at three of the site’s six reactors that spewed radiation, forcing 160,000 residents to flee, many of whom have not returned to this once-fertile coast.

Though called an ice wall, Tepco has attempted to create something more like a frozen soil barrier.

Using 34.5 billion yen ($324 million) in public funds, Tepco sunk about 1,500 tubes filled with brine to a depth of 30 meters (100 feet) in a 1.5-kilometre (1-mile) perimeter around four of the plant’s reactors. It then cools the brine to minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit).

The aim is to freeze the soil into a solid mass that blocks groundwater flowing from the hills west of the plant to the coast.

However, the continuing seepage has created vast amounts of toxic water that Tepco must pump out, decontaminate and store in tanks at Fukushima that now number 1,000, holding 1 million tonnes. It says it will run out of space by early 2021.

“I believe the ice wall was ‘oversold’ in that it would solve all the release and storage concerns,” said Dale Klein, the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the head of an external committee advising Tepco on safety issues.

“The hydrology of the Fukushima site is very complicated and thus the exact water flow is hard to predict,” he said, “especially during heavy rains.”

TYPHOON

The water inflows often fluctuate with rainfall. The dry month of January averaged 83 tons a day, Tepco data showed.

But when a typhoon struck during the last week of October, 866 tons a day poured into the reactors.

Overall, Tepco says a combination of drains, pumps and the ice wall has cut water flows by three-quarters, from 490 tons a day during the December 2015 to February 2016 period to an average of 110 tons a day for December 2017 to February 2018.

It is hard to measure exactly how much the ice wall is contributing, Tepco officials say, but based on computer analysis the utility estimates the barrier is reducing water flows by about 95 tonnes a day compared to two years ago, before the barrier was operating.

“Our assessment is that the ice wall has been effective,” said Naohiro Masuda, Tepco’s chief decommissioning officer, adding that rain falling within the ice wall perimeter contributed to surging volumes. “We now believe we have a system in place to manage the water level.”

However, a government-commissioned panel on Wednesday offered a mixed assessment of the ice wall, saying it was partially effective but more steps were needed.

Controlling the groundwater seepage using the ice wall has been central to Japan’s program to show it had the Fukushima decommissioning in hand.

The barrier was announced just days before Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that Fukushima was “under control” in his final pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

In addition to the building costs, the ice wall needs an estimated 44 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year to run, enough to power about 15,000 typical Japanese homes.

NO MORE SPACE

Meanwhile, Tepco must decide how to cope with the growing volume of water stored on site.

The purification process removes 62 radioactive elements from the contaminated water but it leaves tritium, a mildly radioactive element that is difficult to separate from water. Not considered harmful in low doses, tritium is released into oceans and rivers by nuclear plants around the world at various national standard levels.

But local residents, particularly fishermen, oppose ocean releases because they fear it will keep consumers from buying Fukushima products. Many countries, including South Korea and China, still have restrictions on produce from Fukushima and neighboring areas.

A government-commissioned task force is examining five options for disposing of the tritium-laced water, including ocean releases, though no decision has been made.

Ken Buesseler, a radiochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States, suggests that Tepco should open the tanks to external inspections to see if the water is safe.

“From the public’s viewpoint, I think they’d want a bit of independent confirmation,” Buesseler said. “It’s no harder and a lot cheaper than building an ice wall.”

(Reporting by Malcolm Foster and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Death toll from Vietnam storm tops 60 and dams near bursting

Officials sail a boat out of a submerged local government building after typhoon Damrey hits Vietnam in Hue city, Vietnam November 5, 2017.

By Mai Nguyen

DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) – The death toll from a typhoon and ensuing floods in Vietnam reached 61 on Monday and the government said some reservoirs were dangerously near capacity after persistent rain.

Typhoon Damrey tore across central Vietnam at the weekend just days before the region is due to host the APEC summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, among them U.S. President Donald Trump, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The Communist state’s Search and Rescue Committee said 61 people had been killed and 28 were recorded as missing. It said some of the victims were in vessels that capsized at sea. Others were killed in landslides. It did not give a full breakdown.

More than 2,000 homes had collapsed and more than 80,000 had been damaged, it said. Roads that had been flooded or washed away caused traffic jams across several provinces.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc chaired an emergency meeting on the disaster. Ministers said that because some dams were so full, water might need to be released to relieve pressure – potentially worsening flooding downstream.

In Danang, authorities called on soldiers and local people to clean up so that the beach resort would be ready for delegates to the meetings of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries, which started on Monday.

Leaders are due to meet from Nov. 10 and organizers said the schedule had not been disrupted because of the weather.

But in much of the ancient town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site that spouses of APEC leaders are scheduled to visit on Saturday, muddy waters rose to head height and people boated through the streets.

People ride a boat along submerged houses in UNESCO heritage ancient town of Hoi An after typhoon Damrey hits Vietnam November 6, 2017.

People ride a boat along submerged houses in UNESCO heritage ancient town of Hoi An after typhoon Damrey hits Vietnam November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Hoang Tran Son, 37, who left his home there when the water reached his chest, said it was the worst flooding he had seen for decades.

“We’re pretty much all right in the city, but people in remote areas are devastated,” he said.

The storm moved from the coastal area into a key coffee-growing region of the world’s biggest producer of robusta coffee beans. The typhoon had damaged some coffee trees at the start of the harvest season, farm officials said. But farmers in Daklak, the heart of the region, said the damage was limited.

Authorities said that more than 7,000 farm animals had been killed.

Floods killed more than 80 people in northern Vietnam last month, while a typhoon wreaked havoc in central provinces in September. The country of more than 90 million people is prone to destructive storms and flooding, due to its long coastline.

 

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

 

Macau enlists Chinese army as authorities struggle with typhoon fallout

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers clean debris after Typhoon Hato hits in Macau, China August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Venus Wu and Farah Master

MACAU (Reuters) – Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops were deployed on the streets of Macau on Friday to help clean up in the aftermath of a devastating typhoon and amid mounting criticism authorities were unprepared for the severity of the storm.

Macau public broadcaster, TDM, reported some 1,000 Chinese PLA troops left their Macau barracks to assist in the recovery. Chinese troops are rarely seen on Macau streets.

Dressed in fatigues and caps, some used shovels to shift mounds of stinking rubbish and debris cluttering public spaces, including smashed furniture, sofa and televisions, while processions of green military trucks rumbled along roads.

Macau’s leader Fernando Chui requested the Chinese army’s involvement in “disaster relief” after the highest category 10 Typhoon Hato pummeled the world’s biggest gambling hub on Wednesday, the government said.

Under Macau law, the assistance of Chinese troops can be sought for such humanitarian purposes.

The death toll from Hato stood at nine, with scores missing. Hato, with destructive winds of more than 200 kph (124 mph), was the worst storm since 1968 to hit Macau, causing almost city-wide blackouts, flooding, disrupting water supplies, smashing scores of vehicles and damaging buildings.

“This is horrible, horrible. We live like refugees,” said a resident in her 60s surnamed Yeung.

Hong Kong’s weather observatory said there were indications another storm, brewing close to the Philippines, could hit southern China in the next few days, though it wasn’t expected to be as strong as Hato.

“NO TIME TO PREPARE”

Amid mounting outrage at the government’s handling of the storm, including the perceived failure to adequately warn residents as it approached, Macau leader Chui apologized and said the head of the local observatory would step down.

Some residents said it wasn’t enough.

“The official who left is just a scapegoat to protect Chui…the government is useless,” said Protia Chow, a resident in her 50s who helps run a trading company.

“Chui will not step down but many people think he should,” said Macau resident Cheng Kin-ching. “People are angry at the local government … people were still going to work and it was very dangerous. People died and it’s the government’s responsibility. People had no time to prepare.”

Sonia Chan, an official with the Secretariat for Administration and Justice, who visited some badly affected areas, deflected questions on the public outrage.

“We are here today for disaster relief. We hope to do something concrete,” she said.

As nearby Hong Kong shut down and closed financial markets on Wednesday ahead of Hato, Macau’s authorities failed to raise a sufficiently high typhoon warning signal, critics said, leading many residents to go to work that day.

Authorities have struggled to restore order in the city of 600,000, with some residents having to queue for water from fire hydrants. Many of Macau’s large casinos were relying on back-up generators.

Macau has been rapidly transformed since its return from Portuguese to Chinese rule in 1999 into a gambling hub many times larger than Las Vegas, with major U.S. casinos piling in.

Infrastructure, however, has mostly failed to keep pace with its development despite the rise of a wave of glitzy casino resorts.

Macau gambling stocks fell again in Friday trade with shares of MGM China leading the slide and down nearly 2.5 percent. Wynn Macau fell nearly 2 percent, and Melco International dropped 1.6 percent. Galaxy Entertainment eased 1.5 percent.

(Reporting by Venus Wu, Farah Master and Tyrone Siu; Additional reporting by Donny Kwok; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry and Richard Borsuk)

Macau struggles to recover from Typhoon Hato’s destruction

Macau struggles to recover from Typhoon Hato's destruction

By Tyrone Siu and Farah Master

MACAU/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chaos and confusion gripped Macau on Thursday after one of the strongest typhoons on record hit the territory, killing at least nine people, and leaving more than half the city still without water and power, and casinos relying on back-up generators.

Rescuers on Thursday searched submerged cars for trapped people in the former Portuguese territory, while overwhelmed emergency services scrambled to respond to crisis calls.

A man looks out from inside an apartment where some windows have been broken by typhoon Hato in Macau, China August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

A man looks out from inside an apartment where some windows have been broken by typhoon Hato in Macau, China August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Many residents and tourists complained that the government was woefully unprepared for Typhoon Hato and its destructive winds of more than 200 kmh (124 mph).

Macau’s government broadcaster TDM said Typhoon Hato, a maximum signal 10 storm, was the strongest since 1968 to hit the world’s biggest gambling hub and home to around 600,000 people.

“The city looks like it was just in a war,” said one civil servant, who declined to be named as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Fallen trees and debris are seen on a road following Typhoon Hato in Macau, China, August 24, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. Karen Yung via REUTERS

Fallen trees and debris are seen on a road following Typhoon Hato in Macau, China, August 24, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. Karen Yung via REUTERS

Hato on Wednesday hit the nearby financial hub of Hong Kong, uprooting trees, flooding streets, forcing hundreds of airline flights to be canceled and halting financial trading. There were reports of 34 people injured in Hong Kong, which had not been hit by a signal 10 typhoon for five years.

At one stage as Hato intensified, Hong Kong posted a signal 8 storm warning, saying it was likely to go higher, yet Macau’s government rated Hato only a signal 3 typhoon.

“I am shocked with the late notice and lack of preparation that was given for this superstorm. Residents are in peril and unable to assess if help is on the way,” said Ashley Sutherland-Winch, a marketing consultant in Macau.

Exteriors of buildings, including parts of multi-billion dollar casinos, were ripped away by Hato’s powerful winds.

Video footage from Macau residents sent to Reuters showed a man struggling to keep his head above water in an enclosed carpark filled with debris, while another showed a large truck toppling over and pedestrians flung across pavements. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

While most of Macau’s large casinos, especially those operating on the Las Vegas style Cotai strip, were trying to operate as normal, many were relying on back-up generators.

Casino stocks listed in Hong Kong fell versus a rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index on Thursday with the full impact on gambling revenues and economic cost still unknown, analysts said.

Nolan Ledarney, director of Crafted 852, a food website in Hong Kong, who was staying inside Galaxy’s casino resort with his wife and three children said guests had been corralled into safe areas.

Supermarket staff sell goods outside a supermarket during power outages after Typhoon Hato hit in Macau, China August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Supermarket staff sell goods outside a supermarket during power outages after Typhoon Hato hit in Macau, China August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Severe flooding overwhelmed Macau, which is in the process of building new infrastructure such as a light rail, to cope with a surge in visitors.

Macau has rapidly transformed from a sleepy fishing village over a decade ago into a major gambling hub, although infrastructure has mostly failed to keep pace with its development.

Transportation remained in chaos with damage to both of Macau’s ferry terminals and roads crammed with traffic. Schools, museums and public venues remained closed on Thursday.

“The government cannot handle the challenge as the people would expect from a self claimed first class city,” said Macau resident and political commentator Larry So.

Hato had been downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday and was about 680 km (422 miles) west of Hong Kong and expected to weaken further as it moves inland over China.

(Writing by Farah Master; additional reporting by Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai; Editing by Michael Perry)

Typhoon batters Hong Kong and south China, three dead in Macau

Typhoon batters Hong Kong and south China, three dead in Macau

By James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Typhoon Hato, a maximum category 10 storm, slammed into Hong Kong on Wednesday lashing the Asian financial hub with wind and rain that uprooted trees and forced most businesses to close, while in some places big waves flooded seaside streets.

There were reports of 34 people injured in Hong Kong while in the city of Macau, across the Pearl River estuary, three people were killed, authorities there said.

In Hong Kong, more than 450 flights were canceled, financial markets suspended and schools closed as Hato bore down, the first category 10 storm to hit the city since 2012.

“I’ve never seen one like this,” Garrett Quigley, a longtime resident of Lantau island to the west of the city, said of the storm.

“Cars are half submerged and roads are impassable with flooding and huge trees down. It’s crazy.”

Many skyscrapers in the usually teeming streets of Hong Kong were empty and dark as office workers stayed at home.

Hato, that means “sky pigeon” in Japanese, churned up Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor and triggered large swells and big waves on some of the city’s most popular beaches, with serious flooding in low-lying areas.

In residential districts such as Heng Fa Chuen on densely populated Hong Kong island, waves smashed against the sides of oceanfront buildings and surged over a promenade, sweeping away walls and benches and swamping vehicles parked nearby.

Construction cranes swayed at the tops of skyscrapers, windows imploded and nearly 200 trees were uprooted, while some people used canoes to venture out into flooded streets.

Authorities downgraded the storm to a category three by late-afternoon with government services, the courts, financial markets and companies set to resume normal business on Thursday.

HIGH SEAS

The storm also caused a power blackout across most of the gambling hub of Macau for about two hours, residents said, with disruption to mobile phone and internet networks. There was severe flooding on the streets, with some cars almost completely submerged, and the water supply was affected in some districts. The three men who died included a 45-year-old Chinese tourist who was hit by a heavy truck, according to a government statement.

The former Portuguese colony’s casinos, however, had backup power, two casino executives told Reuters.

The storm also made landfall in China’s Guangdong province, in Zhuhai city adjacent to Macau, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Numerous flights and trains were canceled in Guangdong province, with Shenzhen’s International Airport particularly badly hit.

Thousands of residents along the Chinese coast were evacuated and fishing vessels were called back to port.

Maximum winds near Hato’s center were recorded at a destructive 155 kph (95 mph) as it continued to move west across Guangdong in the general direction of Hainan island.

A senior scientific officer for the Hong Kong observatory warned that sea levels could rise several meters in some places, with the government issuing flood alerts and opening 27 shelters across the city.

Trading in Hong Kong’s financial markets was halted for the day, the stock exchange said. Typhoon Nida in August last year was the last storm to close the exchange for the whole day.

The city’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, and Hong Kong Airlines said the majority of their flights to and from Hong Kong between 2200 GMT Tuesday and 0900 GMT Wednesday would be canceled.

Other transport services, including ferries to Macau and outlying islands in Hong Kong, were suspended.

(Additional reporting by Farah Master and Stefanie McIntyre; Editing by Paul Tait, Michael Perry and Jacqueline Wong)