Torrential rain has brought severe flooding and landslides to parts of Hong Kong after the city’s Observatory recorded the highest one-hour rainfall since records began in 1884, with public transport and public services affected as the Observatory raised its highest rainstorm signal.
The Hong Kong Observatory hoisted the Black rainstorm signal at 11 pm on Thursday, as images of flooded malls, car parks, streets and metro stations emerged.
The signal means that rainfall exceeding 70 millimetres has fallen or is expected to fall within an hour, with risks of landslides and flooding.
The Black rainstorm warning, under which residents are urged to shelter in place, remained in effect until 3.40 pm, when it was replaced by the Amber signal. All rainstorm warnings were cancelled at 4.45 pm.
Hourly rainfall of 158.1 millimetres was recorded by the Observatory in the hour after the warning was raised, a record high.
Across the city’s border, water was discharged from a reservoir in the mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen at midnight.
The Hong Kong government said it may cause “a risk of flooding in some parts of the New Territories.”
The government statement was published just 16 minutes ahead of the scheduled water release, and came a week after a statement regarding “fake news on social media saying Shenzhen will discharge water shortly and may cause flooding in the North District.”
“In response to water discharge from the Shenzhen Reservoir in midnight, the North District Office specially arranged vehicles before midnight to pick up villagers from six villages that may be affected by flooding to temporary shelters for temporary stay,” the government said in the early hours of Friday.
On social media, videos circulated of flooded MTR stations and vehicles submerged in floodwaters with only their roofs visible. Several MTR station exits were closed in the early hours of Friday due to flooding, among them in Chai Wan, Wong Tai Sin, Nam Cheong and Sheung Shui.
In a statement on Facebook, Chief Executive John Lee said government personnel including from the Drainage Services Department and Highways Department were “mobilising all resources to respond to the situation and provide assistance in the affected areas.”
“I urge citizens to stay in safe places according to the actual conditions, pay attention to the latest weather updates, and stay informed through government announcements,” Lee wrote in Chinese.
The rain was brought to the city by a “trough of low pressure associated with the remnants of Typhoon Haikui,” the Observatory said, referring to the tropical cyclone that made landfall in China’s Fujian province on Tuesday.
School, work suspended
The city ground to a halt on Friday as the government said schools would be suspended owing to the torrential rain. Authorities also said the “extreme conditions” announcement was in place, meaning all employees, aside from essential staff, should not be required to report to their workplaces.
The Judiciary said court cases would not proceed on Friday, while government clinics and sport centres were also shut.
In a 9 am announcement on Facebook, the Observatory said the duration that the Black rainstorm warning had been in effect was also a record high.
Hong Kong also saw seven reports of landslides, including six in Hong Kong Island and one in the New Territories. The Civil Engineering and Development Department said it had deployed personnel to the affected sites.
In Shau Kei Wan, firefighters arrived at the scene to close off Yiu Hing Road, a section of which was littered with rocks that had pummelled down.
Nearby, a carpark in Chai Wan was severely flooded, with only the tops of some vehicles visible above the floodwaters.
The Civil Engineering and Development Department said it had deployed personnel to the affected sites.
The Hospital Authority said that it had received reports of at least 102 injuries during the Black rainstorm warning as of 12:15 pm. Four people were in a serious condition.
The government said at around 10:50 am that the “extreme conditions” announcement, under which non-essential employees should stay home, would remain in effect until at least 6 pm.
The unprecedented rainstorm came a week after Super Typhoon Saola prompted the city to issue the Typhoon 10 signal, the first since Super Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018. The government received over 234 reports of fallen trees, one landslide, and 18 confirmed cases of flooding when Super Typhoon Saola hit. Authorities said the damage wreaked on Hong Kong was less compared to during Mangkhut five years ago due to government departments stepping up preparation work.
Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team
Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.