Thousands evacuated, flights cancelled and schools closed after the storm triggers Hong Kong’s most severe warning


Typhoon Hato has killed at least 12 people after it tipped across southern China on Wednesday, battering Hong Kong skyscrapers, flooding streets and forcing thousands to flee to shelters.

Hato triggered Hong Kong’s most severe typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of such power has hit the financial hub in the past 20 years.

Eight people were killed in the gambling mecca of Macau, where local media showed cars underwater and people swimming along what are normally streets. The enclave’s famed mega-casinos were running on backup generators.

Three men aged 30, 45 and 62 were killed in falls and accidents related to the heavy rain and gusting winds. Details on the other fatalities were not available.

Hato came within about 37 miles (60km) of Hong Kong on Wednesday morning before the storm headed westward into mainland China. An 83-year-old man was initially reported to have been swept into the sea by the storm but police said later that he had taken his own life.

China’s weather service said the storm made landfall about noon in the Pearl river delta city of Zhuhai, in Guangdong province. At least four people died and 26,817 people evacuated to temporary shelters, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nearly two million households were briefly without power.

Train services were cancelled, fishing boats returned to harbour and more than 4,000 fish farmers and their families came to shore, Xinhua said. Waves up to 10 metres (33ft) high were expected in the South China Sea, the agency said. Hato knocked out power in Macau, including at its famed casinos and a hospital, forcing it to use backup generators.

In Hong Kong, Hato forced the closure of businesses, government offices, schools and the stock market, leaving the city’s normally bustling streets eerily quiet. Airlines cancelled 450 flights and ferry operators halted commuter services and routes to Macau and cities in the delta.

Hato’s fierce gales brought down trees and blew out windows on skyscrapers, raining shattered glass on to the streets below.

Weather authorities in Hong Kong raised the No 10 hurricane signal, the highest level, for the first time in five years.

By midday, Hato was packing maximum sustained winds of 78mph, with gusts of up to 129mph on some outlying islands.

The No 10 signal has been hoisted only 14 times since 1946, or once every 72 storms, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. The last time it went up was for Typhoon Vicente in 2012.

The observatory warned residents to be prepared for destructive winds, possible flooding and landslips, and advised people to stay away from low-lying areas because storm surges could cause severe flooding.

Streets in areas near the sea were submerged by waves crashing ashore, according to local TV news footage.