Typhoon Hato battered the city-state of Hong Kong on Wednesday, 23 August, disrupting transportation, trade and businesses in the financial hub. Hong Kong had earlier raised its storm warning to category 10, the highest level.
In the past seven decades, this is only the 15th time a category 10 warning has been raised in Hong Kong. The level means hurricane force winds are expected, accompanied by heavy downpours. The city was slammed by a similar category storm, typhoon Vicente, in 2012. Hato means pigeon in Japanese.
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled and stock markets have suspended trading as strong winds pummel the quasi-autonomous territory. Ferry and bus services have been stopped and all schools across the city remain closed.
Airlines have warned that the Hong Kong International Airport could face its worst disruption since the facility was inaugurated nearly 20 years ago. So far, at least 450 flights have been cancelled.
"Tides are currently running about 0.5 metres above normal. The high tide, occurring before noon, and the storm surge induced by Hato may cause a rise in sea levels of about 1 metre or more above normal tide levels. There could be serious flooding in some low-lying areas," Hong Kong's weather agency said in an early morning message.
Several trees have been uprooted and many streets are flooded. Most local businesses have shut down as workers stayed home. The storm is expected to make landfall in neighbouring Guangdong province, 100kms from Hong Kong.
"I've never seen one like this. Cars are half submerged and roads are impassable with flooding and huge trees down. It's crazy," Garrett Quigley, who resides in Lantau Island, told Reuters.
Though Hong Kong is regularly struck by storms, a direct hit on the city is rare. The city's skyscrapers are built to withstand such powerful typhoons.
Typhoon Hato has also caused disruption in the city of Macua as three people – aged 30, 62 and 45 – were killed in separate storm-related incidents. Two others have also gone missing, according to the South China Morning Post. Power supply in the casino hub has also been knocked off. Many of the luxury hotels have also stopped taking any more reservation requests until further notice.