Typhoon Kompasu roars past Hong Kong, leaving 1 dead and 20 injured

By Zoe Low, Nadia Lam, Laura Westbrook
Winds whip government warnings placed along the water’s edge on Wednesday. Photo: Nora Tam

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Typhoon Kompasu left one person dead in a road accident and at least 20 others injured as it roared past Hong Kong on Wednesday, shutting down schools, businesses and the stock exchange, and triggering the longest No 8 warning signal in more than 40 years.

The Observatory downgraded the signal to No 3 at 4.40pm but warned that heavy rains and strong winds were expected to continue and urged residents in low-lying areas to be on guard against flooding.

“The strong wind signal No 3 will remain in force for some time,” it said.

Kompasu, named after the Japanese word for compass, made landfall at Hainan Island at 3.40pm, when it was 520km southwest of Hong Kong.

Residents feel the effects of the typhoon at Kennedy Town. Photo: Nora Tam

A 31-year-old man died after losing control of his motorcycle and slamming into a lamp post in Shek O on southern Hong Kong Island on Tuesday night. He was rushed to hospital, where he was certified dead.

Schools suspended classes and stock market trading was cancelled for the day. The Legislative Council postponed its weekly council meeting to October 20, delaying the second reading of bills on the introduction of non-local doctors to the market and rent control for subdivided flats.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club decided at 11am to call off the race meeting scheduled for 7.15pm at Happy Valley, but the loss of an estimated HK$1.25 billion (US$160 million) ­in betting turnover and more than HK$100 million in duties will be recouped at a replacement meeting on December 29.

By late afternoon, buses and ferries were resuming limited services after facing disruptions throughout the typhoon.

The No 8 warning signal, triggered when wind speeds of 63km/h to 117km/h are expected, was in effect for more than 23 hours before the Observatory lowered it, the longest period since Severe Tropical Storm Agnes in July 1978, according to records.

While rains were less intense than those brought by Tropical Storm Lionrock last weekend, low-lying areas on Lantau Island and near Lei Yue Mun in Kowloon suffered flooding.

Residents of Sam Ka Tsuen village reported water levels reaching at least to their knees overnight, but waters had receded when the Post visited in the early morning. One resident in her 70s who has lived in the village with her husband for more than five decades said her kitchen was inundated.

“I took a look at my kitchen after I woke up at 3am. It was flooded, with a backflow of seawater from my toilet, but luckily my fridge and other electrical appliances were not damaged,” she said.

The government helped install floodgates in front of her door following Super Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018, which caused huge damage and led to serious flooding in the village and elsewhere in Hong Kong. That typhoon, which remains the city’s most intense on record, caused HK$4.6 billion in direct economic losses.

“The floodgates help a lot when there is water influx, and that’s why my living room was not flooded,” the villager said.

Kwun Tong District Council vice-chairman Lui Tung-hai visited the area in the morning and said the residents were managing with the conditions.

“It depends on the tide … The most serious flooding happened at about 1am overnight, but the flood receded by about 3am,” he said, adding the government had provided sandbags, while some residents temporarily moved into a government shelter.

Stock market closed as Kompasu lashes Hong Kong

In total, the city had 10 confirmed instances of flooding and at least 72 trees fell, but no landslides were reported.

As winds shifted direction just before 10am on Wednesday morning, their speeds tripled in areas like Tap Mun, leading the Observatory to extend a No 8 signal forecast originally expected to end at noon.

Leung Wing-mo, a former assistant director of the Observatory, told the Post wind speeds at a measuring station in Tap Mun had risen from 20km/h between 8am and 9am to 70km/h at around 10am.

A father and his two children run through the rain at Heng Fa Villa in Chai Wan on Hong Kong Island on Wednesday. Photo: Dickson Lee

Speaking on a radio show earlier, Leung said the effects of the storm were weakened by the mountainous terrain in the north of the city, which lessened winds blowing from that direction, while drier air from the northeast monsoon tempered rains.

Residents in Lei Yue Mun use sandbags and barricades to protect their homes from flooding during Kompasu. Photo: Dickson Lee

Meanwhile, dozens of residents of Hong Kong Island’s Heng Fa Chuen estate, undeterred by high waves, strong winds and Observatory warnings, could be seen venturing out on Wednesday morning to take pictures of the waterfront promenade.

The promenade, which is on the east side of Hong Kong Island, has long been a hotspot for citizens hoping to observe typhoons. In the late morning, there were occasional showers and the sea remained rough with swells, though the waves did not wash onto the pavement, which workers were already busily cleaning.

Residents share a lighthearted moment in Heng Fa Chuen in Chai Wan on Hong Kong Island. Photo: Winson Wong

Alan, a designer in his 40s, said he brought his two nine-year-old daughters and son to “feel the typhoon”.

“I assessed the situation at home before heading out, I think it is safe today … The wind is not that strong,” he said, adding he had taken his children to observe the aftermath of Mangkhut.

Wilson Pong Chi-fai, 49, a civil servant who has lived in the estate for more than 10 years, said the management company and government had installed new barriers and flood boards at the waterfront after 2018.

“I think the barriers and boards help … with preventing flooding,” he said. “The Observatory has also improved in making announcements. The typhoon warnings have come earlier so we can be more well-prepared.”

Steven Chan, who works in the window maintenance industry and is in his 60s, moved to the area with his wife only two weeks ago.

“I know that Heng Fa Chuen has been a hotspot for typhoons, that’s why we came [to the promenade], to see if the wind is really strong here,” he said. “This typhoon isn’t as strong as I thought, but I may come here again for the next one.”

A man dashes across an empty street in Hong Kong’s normally busy Central district during Wednesday No 8 typhoon warning. Photo: Nora Tam

Kompasu is the second tropical cyclone to hit Hong Kong in less than a week. Tropical Storm Lionrock brought heavy rains to the city starting last Friday, causing the collapse of a 30-storey bamboo scaffolding outside a building in Happy Valley, killing one woman worker.

The latest storm sparked panic buying in some districts over the past two days, compounding the effects of disruptions over the weekend, and leading to shelves being emptied of perishable foods and long queues forming at supermarkets.

On Saturday, Lionrock, named after a famous mountain in Hong Kong, became the first storm of the year to generate a No 8 warning, which lasted for 22 hours.

That earlier storm led to the suspension of construction work on the New Acute Hospital in Kai Tak, the Hospital Authority said on Wednesday. The heavy rains over the weekend led to the new hospital’s foundation settling more than 25mm at four monitoring checkpoints on site, the authority said, adding it was now stabilised. The authority said it planned to ask the contractor to investigate and take steps to strengthen the foundation.

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