At least 16 people have been killed in the most powerful typhoon to hit the southern Chinese region in more than half a century.
The gambling hub of Macau said eight people were killed in the former Portuguese colony, including two men found overnight in a submerged parking garage. Another 153 were injured amid extensive flooding, power outages, and the smashing of doors and windows by high winds and driving rain.
“It’s a calamity, the losses are high and a lot of buildings need repair,” said Macau lawmaker Jose Pereira Coutinho, adding that he heard from many people who still had no water or electricity a day after Typhoon Hato tore across the 30 square kilometre (19 square mile) territory.
He said the flooding was at its worst in the older parts of the city centre, where narrow lanes date back from Macau’s time as a Portuguese colony for more than four centuries. “People were just swimming, they cried for help. There were no boats. The water came so suddenly,” said Mr Coutinho, who slammed the city government for having “reacted so slowly and so badly”.
Casinos in the city centre “were either closed or barely operating”, while some resorts in the newer Cotai district were in better shape but operating without air conditioning, Union Gaming Research analyst Grant Govertsen said in a report.
The chief executive of Macau’s local government, Chui Sai On, ordered measures to “further the relief efforts”, the Government Information Bureau said in a statement. Residents waded in waist-high murky water and rows of city buses sat half-submerged on city streets, according to photos circulating among residents.
Fallen trees blocked roads, causing traffic jams, and residents lined up with buckets to collect water from public standpipes, television video showed. Macau, which is surrounded by water, is vulnerable to high tides and has few options for draining storm run-off.
The territory took almost a direct hit from the storm as it churned towards mainland China.
Its reliance on the mainland for electricity compounded problems. Power cuts in neighbouring Guangdong province, which supplies nearly 90% of Macau’s electricity, cascaded into outages across the city, forcing casino operators, a hospital and the city’s mobile phone company CTM to switch to back-up generators.
CTM also said two equipment rooms were seriously damaged by flooding, affecting telecommunications service in the area. Power utility CEM said today it was restoring service but about 40,000 customers remained in the dark because of damaged power supply facilities.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency said eight more people were killed in Guangdong and one person remained missing. Typhoon Hato roared into the area yesterday with winds of up to 160 kilometres (100 miles) per hour. It weakened into a tropical storm today as it moved further west inland.
Xinhua said almost 27,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters, while extensive damage to farmland due to the heavy rain and high tides was also reported. Almost two million households lost power temporarily, while fishing boats were called back to port and train services and flights suspended, Xinhua said.
Three of the deaths in Macau were men, aged 30, 45 and 62. One fell from the 11th floor of a building, one was hit by a truck and another was killed when the wind blew down a wall. Two others, a man aged 48 and a woman, 44, died from drowning, according to a press statement.
Flooding and injuries were also reported in Hong Kong, which lies across the water 64 kilometres (40 miles) from Macau, but there were no reports of deaths.