This is my experience of Typhoon Mangkhut. I live in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, Hong Kong, some five miles (eight kilometers) east of downtown Hong Kong, and home to around 370,000 residents. Hong Kong, which ranks just above Luxembourg in terms of geographical area, is the fourth-most densely populated region in the world, with a population around 7.5 million. Because of so many people living in a small area, it is full of towers — Hong Kong as a city has the most skyscrapers in the world, with 317 towers taller than 150 meters (490 feet).
My home is also in a high-rise development, part of The Wings complex in Tseung Kwan O, which includes eight towers built around six years ago, with the towers rising to 41 stories. The towers overlook Junk Bay to the south, and is right next to the eastern end of the famous Victoria Harbor between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
My experience of Typhoon Mangkhut is similar to many residents — as of course, many of us do live in high-rise towers. The center of Mangkhut passed close by Hong Kong at a weekend, on Sunday, September 16, and on the day of the typhoon, we were acting on the official advice and all staying at home.
I can vividly remember how the wind was blowing quite fiercely, but an advantage of living in a high-rise tower was that we did feel very safe at home. Some of my friends reported that their buildings were swaying with the wind, and this was causing dizziness. Other friends told of rain water seeping through their windows as the wind blew rain against them.
This is a region used to typhoons, it was little over a year since Typhoon Hato, but reports state that Mangkhut was the strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong in the past few decades, with a maximum sustained wind speed of 195 kilometers per hour (121 miles per hour) near the center, even higher than the famously destructive Typhoon Wanda in 1962.
We were very aware that the Hong Kong Observatory, the weather forecast agency of the government of Hong Kong, had issued its typhoon signal 10, which is the highest typhoon warning, and this was hoisted for more than ten hours. This is only the third time that typhoon signal 10 had been issued since the turn of the century. The advice for signal 10 is clear; stay indoors and away from exposed windows and doors, to avoid flying debris.
Flooding was quite significant in my neighborhood, especially closer to the shore; and more generally, the storm surge was very significant in certain areas along the harbor. Television footage showed storm surge causing significant flooding to basements and stores on their ground floors. This flooded cars, shops, and in a few instances, electricity equipment which caused isolated power outages. There were also some broken windows caused by the wind.
But, the overall damage to properties had thankfully not been too extensive, again as most buildings are strong, concrete high-rises, nor did the flooding affect many people personally, as the majority of population live in tall buildings. From reports in our locality, there had been no loss of life.
Mangkhut did show how resilient our city is, and how it is designed to withstand severe storms. The sewage system was quite effective, and the storm surge-related flooding receded the day after the storm. As most electricity is delivered via underground cables, the electricity was not affected in our area, but there were reports of outages in some more rural locations. What was more noticeable was that most of the damage had come from fallen trees. There are fallen trees almost everywhere in Hong Kong, blocking major roadways.
By Monday, September 17, the city had sprung back to life, just a day after Mangkhut made landfall. Although the fallen trees have caused multiple road blockages, citizens were able to commute to work via trains. Nevertheless, the commute was chaotic on the first day as most buses were still not working and a portion of the East Rail Line was suspended.
The government has been quite effective in clearing road debris and fallen trees in the past two weeks, and all major roads are now all clear. Local citizens also volunteered in the clearing-up effort, self-organizing to clear parks and sidewalks. And while there is still some recovery work going on, the city really has returned to normal within just a week of this major typhoon hitting one of the most populous areas in the world.
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Based in Hong Kong, Lokka works within Capital and Resilience Solutions at RMS as a member of the RMS Miu product management team, supporting Miu clients and managing product development in the Insurance Linked Securities (ILS) space. Lokka holds a bachelor’s degree in Operations and Information Management from the University of Pennsylvania.