Residents of Lei Yu Mun, Tai O and some outlying islands were asked to move to a safe place or temporary shelters on Friday ahead of the approach of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, expected to be one of the strongest typhoons to hit Hong Kong since record-keeping began in 1946.

The Hong Kong Observatory said Mangkhut would move across the northern part of Luzon on Saturday, and may maintain the strength of a super typhoon after entering the South China Sea. Depending on the storm’s progress, the Observatory would consider issuing Standby Signal No. 1 on Friday evening.

“Despite the uncertainties in the subsequent track of Mangkhut and its distance from Hong Kong, Mangkhut’s extensive circulation will pose a threat to the coast of Guangdong,” the Observatory said. “Weather in Hong Kong will deteriorate significantly on Sunday.”

The Observatory said that, on Sunday, winds would strengthen abruptly with frequent heavy rain and squalls. There will be rough seas with swells, and heavy rain and storm surge may cause flooding and backflow of seawater in low-lying coastal areas.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday that a joint departmental meeting had been convened, involving nearly 30 government bodies. Lam urged the public to stay indoors during the typhoon and avoid risky activities such as storm chasing.

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Tai O. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

The Home Affairs Department (HAD) and District Offices contacted various groups to take precautions against the tropical cyclone, and 48 temporary shelters will be made available after the Strong Wind Signal No. 3 is issued. The HAD will operate an emergency hotline at 2835 1473.

The Drainage Services Department will also take precautions at black spots and low-lying areas prone to serious flooding. Further efforts to transport Tai O residents to nearby shelters will be arranged by the Islands District Office on Saturday.

Hong Kong and Macau prepare

On Friday morning, dozens of fishing boats were berthed at Aberdeen Harbour to wait out the typhoon. Crew members chatted on deck and secured the boats to the seawall with rope as joggers and elderly residents looked on.

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A crew member ties a boat to the sea wall. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

One fishing boat operator who gave his name as Mr Lai told HKFP that his crew planned to stay on the boat, which returned to the harbour from the waters near Shanwei three days ago.

“We’ll do some odd jobs around the boat, repairs and maintenance, some painting work,” Lai said. “We’ll just watch the wind come, there’s not much we can do.”

He estimated that he would lose about HK$5,000 per day, including diesel and the crew’s salary and food. He said his crew members were not allowed to leave the boat, as they were Chinese citizens. But a sailor who was tying up another boat told HKFP that his crew would leave their boat if it was T8 or above.

Wet markets at Mong Kok and elsewhere were reported by local media to be more packed than usual, with shoppers planning to buy extra meat and vegetables to last the weekend.

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Bottled water supplies run low at a Macau supermarket.

Residents in neighbouring Macau were also on heightened alert on Thursday, with the memory of last year’s severe typhoon Hato still fresh. While Hong Kong came out of Hato with 129 injuries, Macau suffered 10 deaths, power outages and widespread flooding.

Apple Daily reported that sandbags were sold out at some shops in Macau, and supermarkets were running low on bottled water. Wholesaler Vitasoy (Macau) Limited offered a discount on bottled water to local residents, but its factory displayed a sold out sign by Thursday afternoon, according to the newspaper.

One of the underground parking lots which was flooded during Typhoon Hato had reopened, but drivers said they planned to seek alternative parking spots when the storm hits.

Additional reporting: Catherine Lai.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.