On Friday, record-breaking rainfall immobilized most of Hong Kong, with flash floods swallowing metro stations and trapping traffic on the roadways. Schools were closed and the public was warned to seek safe shelter as the authorities suspended classes.
Residents could be seen in pictures and videos trudging through murky brown floodwaters as heavy rain continued to saturate the 7.5 million-person city. Streets in certain low-lying regions were turned into raging torrents, forcing authorities to rescue drivers trapped in their cars.
According to a news release from the government, the deluge started late on Thursday night when the Hong Kong Observatory recorded the highest hourly rainfall since records began in 1884: more than 158 millimeters (6.2 inches) of rain between 11 p.m. and midnight.
Almost 500 mm (19.7 inches) of rain fell in some areas of the city in a single day, according to the online meteorological resource OGimet.
The severe weather came only days after Hong Kong was battered by its strongest typhoon in five years, shocking many locals.
Although Typhoon Saola, formerly a super typhoon, was downgraded to a Category 2 storm as it approached Hong Kong last weekend, it still had enough strength to shut down the city and cancel hundreds of flights. According to the authorities, the typhoon caused 86 injuries.
The financial center’s transportation and business were severely affected by the rain on Friday; the stock exchange cancelled morning trading, and all schools were shuttered. Authorities urged companies to permit non-essential workers to stay at home or find safe shelter on Friday, citing hazardous travel conditions.
Professor Stuart Hargreaves, a native of Hong Kong, was compelled to spend the night in his vehicle after becoming lost while returning home late on Thursday. He claimed that the inundated roads were “impassable,” and that at one point, “water was coming over the hood of the car and I thought it was going to flood the engine.”
He claimed that a number of other automobiles had been flooded and were “floating” nearby. He was able to find a secure parking spot, but there was no way out, leaving him stranded until dawn. Nine hours later, he was finally able to make it home, but the road was “full of rocks from landslides, debris from trees, abandoned cars, and so on,” he recalled.
According to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, 119 persons had been reported hurt by the downpour as of Friday afternoon, and four of them were in a serious condition. Such “extreme” conditions, according to the administration, were anticipated to last until at least midnight.
After a station in the Wong Tai Sin neighborhood was flooded and video of the flooding was extensively shared online, the city’s Mass Transit Railway stated it would cease services on one of its lines. In another video, employees at a different station can be seen battling the floods at the entrance while knee-deep in water.
According to public broadcaster RTHK, all significant bus, tram, and ferry services were ceased while the majority of other subway operations were still open. Additionally, many routes are still suspended or detoured even though some bus services restarted Friday afternoon.
In the hilly region, numerous highways were also shut down owing to the potential for landslides, and for the first time in two years, authorities issued the strongest “black” rainstorm warning.
Videos from Thursday night show chairs and other objects lying about the floor as floodwater enters the first floors of various structures and shopping centers.
In response to Shenzhen, the nearby city, announcing that it will release water from a reservoir, the administration also issued a warning that “there may be a risk of flooding” in its northern New Territories area, which is adjacent to the Chinese mainland.
According to Chinese official media, the downpours in Shenzhen also smashed a number of city rain records, including the maximum rainfall records for two-hour, three-hour, six-hour, and 12-hour periods, which had stood since 1952.
Kindergartens, primary, and secondary schools were closed on Friday as a result of the 469 millimeters (nearly 18.5 inches) of rain that fell in Shenzhen between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to official media. There, too, transportation was hampered by the suspension of six metro lines.