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SHAKE AND BLOW
Typhoon Hato leaves scores dead after lashing southern China
By Elaine YU
Macau (AFP) Aug 24, 2017


Chinese army mobilised as typhoon death toll rises in Macau
Macau (AFP) Aug 25, 2017 - The Chinese army on Friday joined relief efforts in Macau where at least nine people are now known to have died when a huge typhoon swept through the gambling hub.

Around 48 hours after Severe Typhoon Hato smashed into southern China, worst-hit Macau was still picking up the pieces, with the enclave's government facing recriminations over its lack of preparation.

The government sent a request to Chinese authorities asking for the assistance of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Macau garrison to assist in relief efforts, the first such request since the city was handed over to China in 1999.

"The PLA Macau Garrison have joined hands with the Macau Government and the Macau public for post-typhoon relief and construction work," a government statement said Friday.

Authorities said around 1,000 troops were mobilised in the morning.

Residents volunteered to pick debris off the streets alongside troops who were seen clearing away items ranging from computer equipment to gas cylinders.

The official tally in the city hit nine on Friday after a man's body was pulled from a car park.

A further eight people are known to have died in parts of mainland southwestern China.

"It's been absolutely devastating for Macau," Andrew Scott, chief executive officer of O MEDIA, a media company in the city, told AFP.

"There is a real air of despondency. Each addition to the death toll is absolutely demoralising to the citizens of Macau," he said.

A taxi driver who identified himself as Ben said he expected the PLA to handle the clean-up effectively.

"There are so many disasters in China, they can handle it in a couple of days, a situation like this could be quite easy for them," he said.

- 'Extremely difficult' -

On Thursday evening, as residents of the former Portuguese colony queued for drinking water, Macau's leader Fernando Chui and other government ministers bowed their heads for a minute's silence and made a public apology.

"These two days, we have faced an extremely difficult test together. Hato is the strongest typhoon in 53 years and has brought tremendous damage to Macau," Chui told reporters.

"In facing this disaster, we admit we have not done enough, there is space for improvement," he said, adding that the city's meteorological bureau chief had resigned.

Casinos, which brought in more than $28 billion in 2016 -- over half of Macau's GDP -- were among the casualties of the storm, and reporters who got inside the Wynn Macau found switched off slot machines and no air conditioning.

Other casinos and resort facilities in the city were either shut or running at limited capacity.

"It will probably take at least a week to normalise again and for visitors to feel comfortable about coming again," gaming analyst Ben Lee of IGamiX consultancy told AFP, adding that some casinos were unprepared for the severity of the storm.

In Hong Kong, Hato -- whose name is Japanese for "pigeon" -- sparked the most severe Typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years.

Although 120 people were hurt, there were no fatalities in the city, where careful planning and long experience with extreme weather is credited with limiting the devastation.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Observatory was warning of another tropical cyclone heading towards the area and due to make landfall some time on Sunday.

The death toll from Severe Typhoon Hato rose to at least 16 Thursday after the storm left a trail of destruction across southern China, blacking out Macau's mega-casinos and battering Hong Kong's skyscrapers.

Eight died in the gambling hub of Macau, where images showed cars underwater and people swimming along streets. The enclave's famed mega-casinos were running on backup generators.

Macau's leader made a public apology after his government came under fire for its delayed storm warning, while the head of the weather bureau resigned.

A man was killed by a wall that was blown down, another fell from a fourth-floor terrace and one was hit by a truck.

The Macau government said two bodies were found in a flooded car park early Thursday, and that two more died when they were trapped in the basement of their shop. Details of the remaining death were not immediately available.

Footage published Thursday on the website of Apple Daily showed water gushing into an underground car park, with people wading through neck-deep water littered with debris as one man shouted in panic. It was not clear if it was the same car park where the bodies had been found.

"I have never seen Macau like this since I came here in the 70s," a taxi driver aged in his 50s who gave his name as Lao told AFP.

"It's like they were trying to gamble with their luck," Lao said adding that authorities had reacted too slowly and did too little to alert residents of the coming storm.

Blacked-out slot machines were seen at the largely empty Wynn Macau casino where there was no air conditioning and a musty atmosphere.

However, a few dozen gamblers ignored the heat and tried their luck at four baccarat tables.

A staff member at the enclave's sprawling Venetian resort said its casino and shops were open, but there was no air conditioning. A source had said on Wednesday that the complex was running on back-up power.

But at the Grand Lisboa Hotel in central Macau, an employee told AFP it was still without electricity and water and that its casino and restaurants were closed.

The city's gambling industry generated over 220 billion patacas ($27.29 billion) in revenue in 2016, over half of its annual GDP, as it hosted more than 30 million visitors.

- 'Tremendous damage' -

Macau's leader Fernando Chui and other government ministers bowed their heads during a minute's silence at an evening press conference.

"These two days, we have faced an extremely difficult test together. Hato is the strongest typhoon in 53 years and has brought tremendous damage to Macau," Chui told reporters.

"In facing this disaster, we admit we have not done enough, there is space for improvement. Here I represent the Macau government in expressing our apologies to the residents," he said, adding that the city's meteorological bureau chief had resigned.

Debris was scattered on roads and a shipping container was washed up on its side in front of a temple after Wednesday's storm.

Streets were lined with trash and shattered glass and residents holding plastic buckets queued for water from fire hydrants.

"We've been going without water and electricity for more than 24 hours. It's so hot," May Lee, in her 40s, who was in line for water, told AFP, adding that there was not even water for flushing the toilet.

In Hong Kong, Hato -- whose name is Japanese for "pigeon" -- sparked the most severe Typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years.

The city could have suffered losses of HK$8 billion ($1.02 billion), Chinese University of Hong Kong economics professor Terence Chong told AFP, referring to the value of its daily GDP.

More than 120 were injured as the city was lashed with hurricane winds and pounding rain.

In the neighbouring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, at least eight people have died, state broadcaster CCTV reported, while around 27,000 were evacuated to temporary shelters, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nearly two million households were briefly without power.

CCTV said four of the mainland deaths had occurred in Zhuhai, three in Zhongshan and one in Jiangmen.

Hato was downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday afternoon as it travelled further into China

Hong Kong and the surrounding region is regularly battered by typhoons between July and October.

SHAKE AND BLOW
The eye of the storm: Hong Kong's all-powerful observatory
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 23, 2017
As Hong Kong battens down for Typhoon Hato, weather-obsessed residents are glued to updates from the historic observatory which has the power to shut down the city with a signal. Early Wednesday the observatory issued Hong Kong's highest level Typhoon 10 warning, bringing the city to a standstill with schools shut, hundreds of flights cancelled, and the stock market closed. The typhoon h ... read more

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