Typhoon kills 25 in China; Hong Kong flights in chaos

AFP-JIJI

Typhoon Usagi killed at least 25 people after crashing ashore in southern China, throwing the region’s transport systems into chaos and leaving tens of thousands of airline passengers stranded in Hong Kong on Monday.

Schools and businesses were shut as activity in the normally teeming financial hub slowed to a crawl after Usagi — the world’s most powerful storm this year — battered a long swath of coastline with torrential rain and winds of up to 165 kph Sunday night.

The deaths were reported by Chinese state media after Usagi made landfall near Shanwei city, northeast of Hong Kong, on Sunday evening, prompting the highest-level alert from the National Meteorological Center.

The reports by Xinhua News Agency did not say how the 25 were killed but said all the deaths were in Guangdong province after the typhoon brought down trees and damaged roads. Dozens more were injured in accidents, it added.

Bullet trains from Guangzhou city to Beijing were suspended and Xinhua said winds were strong enough near Shanwei to blow cars off the road. Before the storm hit more than 47,000 fishing boats returned to harbor and schools were closed in 14 coastal cities.

Usagi had previously killed two people in the Philippines and unleashed landslides and caused power outages across southern Taiwan at the weekend as it plowed through the Luzon Strait with ferocious winds and heavy downpours.

Monsoon rain worsened by Usagi brought flooding Monday to Manila and nearby provinces.

As the typhoon bore down on Hong Kong, operators shut down one of the world’s busiest sea ports, and nearly 450 flights were either canceled or delayed on Sunday as Cathay Pacific and other airlines imposed pre-emptive suspensions.

Hong Kong’s Observatory said it was the strongest typhoon to brush the city since 1979. Tens of thousands of people had their travel plans upended with ferries and trains also disrupted, while Cathay only resumed flights from noon Monday.

Many passengers were forced to stay overnight at the airport, sleeping on the floor or spending the night playing card games. Many milled around the departure hall hoping to re-book their flights.

But handwritten signs warned them that there was little chance of getting standby seats on flights out Monday and to check back later.

“We’ve waited for so long . . . and we still can’t leave. Who would not be unhappy?” Iris Ouyang, an irate 26-year-old marketing officer from Beijing said, after waiting more than 12 hours for her China Southern flight. “Before we had good feelings toward Hong Kong, but not anymore.”

Airlines scrambled to clear the backlog of passengers by regrouping passengers and arranging extra flights as more than 1,000 passengers waited in the check-in area. But airport authorities foresaw a second day of flight disruptions, with more than 480 scheduled flights being canceled or delayed Monday.