Typhoon Mangkhut: Storm Hits China as Philippines Searches for Dozens Buried in Slides
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As Typhoon Mangkhut moved past Hong Kong and struck southern China, the authorities in the Philippines said that landslides had buried dozens, including people sheltering in a church and a dormitory for miners. The death toll there was rising sharply as rescue workers began moving in.
The storm had weakened overnight but was still a severe typhoon, with sustained winds of up to 100 miles, or 160 kilometers, an hour, the Hong Kong authorities said. Buildings in that city swayed, trees were downed, windows shattered and hundreds of flights were canceled.
In southern China, the typhoon made landfall in an industrial area of Guangdong Province, where the authorities said hundreds of thousands had moved to safer ground. At least two people in the province died in the storm, state media reported Sunday night.
[Catch up on the rest of our storm coverage.]
In Benguet Province in the Philippines, a landslide crushed a church and a bunkhouse for miners. With other landslide victims in the province, officials feared on Sunday that the number of deaths could surpass 100. A search for bodies was underway.
Elsewhere, landslides buried homes, killing inhabitants who chose not to take shelter. By late Sunday, the unofficial count from the police was 59 dead, but that did not include what could be the worst toll in Benguet Province.
Francis Tolentino, a senior adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, estimated that 5.7 million people had been affected by the storm, and that distributing rice and other supplies to the hardest-hit areas was a major concern.
Mr. Duterte inspected part of the disaster area and met with top officials in Tuguegarao City for a televised briefing on the damage and the recovery effort.
“I share the grief of those who lost their loved ones,” the president said.
Videos posted by the Philippine Red Cross early Sunday show rescue efforts in San Fabian, Pangasinan Province. Rescuers evacuated families from their homes on boats, as the water had risen to neck-deep levels in some areas.
[Here’s how to help support the recovery efforts.]
The authorities said more than 105,000 people had taken shelter in evacuation centers as the typhoon was nearing.
Hong Kong is used to fierce storms, but when Typhoon Mangkhut struck the city on Sunday, it soon became clear that this one was different. Wind gusts as strong as 120 miles an hour swept through the city, rocking tall buildings and fueling storm swells that threatened the coastline with waves as high as 40 feet.
At midday, the city’s normally teeming streets were devoid of people and cars. The weather authority issued its highest typhoon warning, a signal 10. The government also issued a landslide warning, urging people to stay away from steep hills and retaining walls and asking residents in vulnerable areas to evacuate.
And for the first time ever, Macau, the Asian gambling capital farther along the Chinese coast, closed its casinos because of a storm.
Hong Kong residents hunkered down in their apartments, having cleared many grocery store shelves the day before in preparation.
Others took refuge in shelters. The city’s airport, a central transit point for much of Asia, was virtually shut down, with almost 900 flights canceled. The outdoor sections of Hong Kong’s vaunted subway system were taken out of service. In Mong Kok, a crane collapsed at a construction site, but no injuries were reported.
Hong Kongers took to Facebook and WhatsApp messaging groups, circulating pictures of the hurried preparations: cars and motorcycles mummified with cling wrap, indoor storefronts encased with spiderweb-like tape. One Instagram user altered an image to add Spider-Man onto the side of a Hong Kong building, where he’d pitched in by putting tape on a window.
But as the storm bore down in full force, the postings became more ominous. In a city of towering apartment buildings, some reported they were becoming motion-sick as their homes twisted and swayed. Videos showed glass windows and doors smashing, pedestrians being blown off the ground and residents frantically scooping rain out of their balconies to prevent flooding.
In southern China, the storm made landfall around 5 p.m. near Jiangmen City, in Guangdong Province, just across the border from Hong Kong. State television reported Sunday evening that two people had been killed, and other reports said that people had been crushed by billboards or other debris in Shenzhen and Dongguan, cities along the Pearl River.
The storm crossed the southern coast with winds as high as 100 miles an hour. As night fell, the cities along China’s southern coast largely emptied as residents heeded warnings to stay indoors, having already stocked up on food and water at stores on Saturday and earlier Sunday. Guangzhou ordered all restaurants to close to keep people off the streets, and high-speed rail service was suspended in the province.
The news agency Xinhua, citing government reports, said that nearly 2.5 million people in the province had been affected in some way, with some seeking protection in more than 18,000 designated shelters. Fishing boats had been ordered before the storm into anchorages, and the authorities detained several fishermen who had defied the warnings.
In Qiantangshan, a coastal village south of the storm’s center, residents seemed unfazed, even though officials said it was the biggest typhoon in years. “It’s not that big,” a woman selling fruit as the first wind and rain arrived had said on Sunday, vowing to stay through the day.
Guangdong, China’s most populous province, has extensive experience with typhoons, and with makes elaborate preparations for each of them. After 16 workers were killed when their shanty collapsed in a typhoon in 2003, the province pursued a strenuous campaign of demolishing or upgrading substandard housing.
The broader Pearl River Delta area, which also includes Hong Kong, is one of the world’s most important manufacturing hubs and home to more than 60 million people.
The sprawling delta is barely above sea level and has struggled with flooding despite years of investment in drainage systems. Climate change has exacerbated the problem. The provincial capital, Guangzhou, has more to lose from rising seas and more severe storms than any other city on the planet, according to a World Bank report.
The arrival of Typhoon Mangkhut in southern China has raised concerns about the nuclear plants that supply electricity to local manufacturers. But the area is battered by typhoons almost every year, and the Chinese government has stringent standards requiring that all critical infrastructure be able to withstand severe weather.
Workers have been taking precautionary measures at two nuclear plants along the coastline, Taishan and Yangjiang. The first reactor of the Taishan complex went online this past summer, so Typhoon Mangkhut will be its first major storm. The plant’s managers said they had held detailed planning meetings and a thorough safety inspection in the days before the storm.
“All emergency duty personnel of Taishan Nuclear Power have been on the job, all preparations have been implemented, and the Taishan Nuclear Power Base is ready,” they said in a statement on WeChat, a Chinese internet service.
The management of the Yangjiang power plant, which is right on the coast, said in a separate statement on WeChat that it had been designed to withstand large storm surges. Outdoor equipment was tied down or removed to make the site more windproof, and the reactor buildings themselves, which have reinforced concrete shells, are extremely rigid, the company said.
The New York Times reporters Hannah Beech and Kimberly dela Cruz traveled along Luzon’s western and northern coasts on Saturday. Foliage, trees and rolling coconuts were strewn across the roads, which were deserted except for volunteer crews removing debris to make them passable and the occasional emergency vehicle.
In one community after another, they reported seeing downed trees and badly damaged buildings. Signs, tin roofs and gates that had been torn free flew about.
In Claveria, a corn- and rice-growing area on the northern coast, the Antonio family had fled their home about 1 a.m. for sturdier shelter. Marck James Antonio, 24, stayed behind and was struck and gashed in the right temple by flying debris. But he was conscious and still moving around.
“This was the strongest and the worst storm that I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said his mother, Teresita Antonio, 54. “I was crying before because I don’t know how I will be able to afford to fix my house.”
“It was shaking like an earthquake,” said another resident, Robert Tumaneng, 55, a fish farmer. From a road above, the area where the fish ponds once were looked like a giant lake, with the tips of submerged palm trees and thatched roofs sticking out.
Further east, in Sanchez Mira, more than 270 people had sought shelter at a community hall.
“Some people didn’t want to evacuate their homes but I forced them,” said Rewin Valenzuela, 48, a local leader. “We evacuated everyone to prevent loss of life.”
The winds made it difficult to stand outdoors but some residents were returning home, carrying mattresses and plastic buckets with food and other provisions. The roofs had been torn off other houses and a few that were built on stilts listed dangerously.
The 12 million residents of the metropolitan Manila area, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, appeared to have been spared major destruction as the center of the storm passed hundreds of miles to the north.
The megacity was hit by heavy rain and strong winds, with trees uprooted and flooding in some areas. Among the inundated roads was Roxas Boulevard, a major artery that runs along Manila Bay and often floods during storms.
More than 1,600 families were evacuated after the Marikina River, which runs through part of the city, began rising quickly because of runoff from nearby mountains. The police said the body of a child, about 10 years old, was found floating in the river under a bridge in Pasig, one of several cities that make up Metro Manila.
By Sunday, the river had subsided and the families were allowed to return.
The Manila area sits near sea level on the shore of Manila Bay, making it vulnerable to the typhoons that sweep in from the Pacific.