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Trading on Hong Kong’s stock market was cancelled and schools and government services were suspended on Wednesday as a No 8 storm warning for Typhoon Kompasu plunged the city into shutdown mode amid heavy rain and gusty winds.
As of 10am, Kompasu was centred about 390km south-southwest of the city, but winds were forecast to gradually diminish over the afternoon, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
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Overnight, the storm – upgraded to typhoon status at 5.45am – caused minor flooding in some low-lying areas, with reports of at least 35 fallen trees, according to a government spokesman.
Seven people had been injured during the storm as of 10.45am, the Hospital Authority reported separately, with one fatality.
In the village of Sam Ka Tsuen in Lei Yue Mun residents reported water levels reaching at least knee-high.
There were also reports of seawater overflowing onto the waterfront promenade in Heng Fa Chuen on Hong Kong Island, where some residents had ventured out despite warnings around midnight. People were also spotted strolling along the promenade in Kennedy Town.
In Sha Tin, the Shing Mun River also flooded the riverside promenade and bicycle lanes, with water reportedly up to the waist in pedestrian tunnels.
Police, meanwhile, were investigating the sole death attributed to Kompasu, a fatal traffic accident in which a 31-year-old man reportedly lost control of his motorcycle and hit a lamp post while travelling along Shek O Road.
After sustaining serious head injuries, the motorcyclist was rushed to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, where he was certified dead on Tuesday evening.
Former Observatory assistant director Leung Wing-mo on Wednesday said the weather service’s communications on Kompasu – named after the Japanese word for compass – had been clearer, as the storm had taken a less erratic path.
“The key to good communications is a good grasp of the storm track, and Kompasu has been relatively less erratic … the overall weather conditions in the region have also been more stable this time,” he told a local radio show.
As of 8am, when the typhoon was centred about 380km south-southwest of Hong Kong, Leung said it was still relatively far away.
“Even though it is now typhoon strength and has an overlapping effect from the northeast monsoon, the winds from the two are not blowing in the same direction,” Leung said, explaining Kompasu’s apparently weaker impact compared with Tropical Storm Lionrock a few days ago.
Winds blowing in from the north had been weakened by the more mountainous terrain in that area of the city, he added. Drier air from northerly winds had also lessened the rainbands to the north of the storm centre.
However, Leung said more of Hong Kong could be affected if the wind began from the east, something forecast by the Observatory.
HKEX announced at noon that trading sessions in the securities and derivatives markets had been cancelled due to the No 8 typhoon signal. “No securities clearing and settlement services will be provided for the day,” it said, adding that applied to after-hours trading as well.
Classes at all schools were automatically suspended earlier in the day.
Child care centres and facilities providing after school care programmes, elderly services and day rehabilitation such as sheltered workshops, integrated vocational rehabilitation and training will not open to the public.
Stock market trading, meanwhile, already suspended for the morning, will be officially cancelled for the day should the No 8 warning remain in effect at noon.
The Judiciary also announced that all court hearings would remain adjourned this morning, while the Immigration Department said all services at its headquarters and branch offices were suspended.
The MTR Corporation said its trains were running, but at slower intervals, while the MTR Bus service was suspended. Franchised bus operators NWFB, Citybus and KMB have also suspended almost all of their routes.
Hong Kong’s community vaccination centres also remain closed, along with all 10 collection points for deep throat saliva samples for coronavirus testing. All clinics run by the Hospital Authority and Department of Health clinics, apart from those distributing methadone, are shut as well while the No 8 signal remains in force.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued the third-highest typhoon warning signal at 5.20pm on Tuesday as Kompasu came within 500km of the city, threatening to unleash another round of the gale-force winds and torrential rain that Lionrock brought last weekend.
Neighbouring Macau issued its No 8 warning signal at 10.30pm.
Following widespread public criticism that its weather warnings did not properly reflect the actual dangers and came too late during Lionrock, which killed one construction worker, the Observatory said it was urging the public as early as possible to seek shelter and take other precautionary measures.
“The development and paths of Lionrock and Kompasu are completely different, making the uncertainty in forecasting different,” Senior Scientific Officer Lee Tsz-Cheung said. “But of course, after learning from the Lionrock experience, we have tried our best to make our announcements clearer. We have also increased our manpower.”
Rain associated with Kompasu continued to affect the coast of Guangdong province, which was forecast to move west towards the vicinity of Hainan Island, the Observatory said.
According to the Hong Kong International Airport website, 74 flights were cancelled on Tuesday.
A No 8 warning signal is triggered when wind speeds between 63km/h and 117km/h are expected. Members of the public are advised to stay off the streets, lock all windows and doors and reinforce gates if needed. They should tape up large window panes to reduce the chance of shattering glass and move furniture and any valuables away from exposed areas.
The Observatory issued the No 3 warning signal for Kompasu on Monday night and it remained in force throughout Tuesday morning, forcing the cancellation of kindergarten classes and other schools started sending students home just before noon.
At 3.20pm, the government warned people facing long commutes and residents living on the outlying islands to begin their journeys home, while the Labour Department asked employers to consider the safety of their staff and “adopt a sympathetic and flexible approach” in work arrangements.
As early as Monday, residents began stocking up on supplies at wet markets and supermarkets as they prepared to hunker down for the storm. At Bowrington Road market in Causeway Bay, finance executive Tiffany Tian bought two days’ worth of food, including fish, chicken and vegetables on Tuesday afternoon.
The 25-year-old said she was caught off guard by Lionrock and could not go shopping in time but was happy the Observatory would raise the No 8 signal earlier this time, giving her more time to prepare.
“Even one day earlier is better,” she said.
Maria, a 40-year-old domestic worker who did not want to give her full name, was also not taking any chances and bought two days’ worth of food.
“The vegetables here have all been sold out since 6pm yesterday,” she said. “A lot of people were panic buying.”
May Yeung, a 62-year-old co-owner of three shops offering fruit, seafood and meat at the market, said pork had sold out by 11.30am and she expected all her seafood would be gone before the No 8 signal was up.
“The busiest time was between 8am and 10am,” she said. “We don’t raise prices during the typhoon.”
Fruit was harder to sell because it was not a daily necessity, she said, adding “we’re even lowering the price because we want to sell it before the typhoon arrives”.
At a Wellcome supermarket in North Point on Hong Kong Island, long lines of people with two to three days’ worth of food waited to pay at the cashiers in the late afternoon. Although some items remained on the shelves, the cooked food, especially Hong Kong-style BBQ chicken, was sold out, along with vegetables, bananas and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
On Des Voeux Road West in Sheung Wan at the other end of the island, shop staff were busy piling up sandbags and putting wooden planks across store entrances to help protect against flooding after parts of the street were inundated during Lionrock.
Yue Sang Sea Product Company had eight sandbags stacked up and three wooden planks secured across its steel shutter. Not far away at the Kwan Shing Sea Products Trading Company, which sells canned seafood and sake, employees were busy reinforcing windows with tape and stacking empty wooden boxes behind the panes before closing at 5pm.
“We didn’t prepare in advance,” one employee admitted. “We use what is available [in our shop].”
More than 200 people took refuge in the 24 temporary shelters across the city, according to the Home Affairs Department.
Sun Ferry, which sails between the business districts and outlying islands, began suspending services at 6pm, and Star Ferry halted its cross-harbour runs half an hour later. The MTR Corporation kept its trains running until 8.20pm, while Hong Kong Tramways stopped service at 8pm.
The New Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter and Rambler Channel Typhoon Shelter for boats were already full by around 12.30pm, according to the Marine Department, which advised local vessels to dock at the other 12 protective areas across the city.
The Labour Department has launched an investigation into the death of the construction worker who died after 30-storeys worth of bamboo scaffolding came crashing down on Broadwood Road in Happy Valley, when the No 3 warning signal was in effect.
The No 8 warning signal was raised at 6.40am on Saturday and remained in force for 22 hours, the longest period since Severe Tropical Storm Agnes in July 1978, according to Observatory records.
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