Monster storm Mangkhut has ripped through parts of Southeast and East Asia, leaving a trail of death, destruction and a multi-billion-dollar bill.
Bodies were still being pulled out of mudslides and rubble on the main island of Luzon in the Philippines, which bore the brunt of the super typhoon on the weekend with winds of more than 230 kilometers per hour.
At least 65 people died as the storm shredded forests, felled electricity poles, shattered towns and devastated crucial rice crops. On Monday, emergency workers recovered 43 bodies from a landslide in the remote northern town of Itogon, fatalities that could push the national death toll over 100, officials cited in news reports said.
As the storm moved across the South China Sea, Mangkhut triggered a maximum “T10” typhoon signal in the high-rise city of Hong Kong.
Massive waves were reported on coasts, while heavy rain triggered extensive flooding in the special administrative region (SAR), as well as in nearby Macau, before the storm rumbled on to Guangdong province and across the Pearl River Delta.
“Economic losses in Hong Kong and across China could reach $50 billion on top of the $16 billion to $20 billion it probably exacted in the Philippines,” Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler for Enki Research in the United States, told Bloomberg. “The impact in the Philippines could be between 5% to 6% of its gross domestic product.”
But that figure could rise to at least $100 billion after the full extent of the damage is assessed, analysts warned.
In Hong Kong, where a monumental cleanup operation was underway, the costs will be substantial, according to Swiss Re Institute.
On Monday, people struggled to get back to work on roads littered by uprooted trees, mudslides and debris as bus services ground to a halt.
Schools in the SAR were closed but the Hong Kong Stock Exchange opened as normal.
At least 391 people were injured by falling debris as winds whipped through the city, slicing through hundreds of trees and causing deep flooding in low-lying areas such as Hang Fa Chuen and Siu Sai Wan, which were badly hit by Typhoon Hato last year.
Waves as high as five meters swamped Tseung Kwan.
Later, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the chief executive of Hong Kong’s local government, stressed that “all necessary manpower and resources” would be deployed in the mopping-up operation.
“Local companies should also adopt a flexible approach to staff who have difficulties getting back to work,” she added.
Major airlines had been forced to scrap flights on Sunday, with Hong Kong International Airport suffering acute travel disruptions with nearly 900 flights being delayed or canceled.
Backlog of flights
The two runways will remain open overnight on Monday and Tuesday to handle the backlog of 2,000 rescheduled flights. “About 900 flights will be rescheduled today and a total of 2,000 within 48 hours,” Jack So Chak-kwong, the chairman of the Airport Authority, said.
Still, concerns are growing that due to climate change, seafront villages such as those at Lei Yue Mun could be on the frontline of future mega-storms.
“Because of sea levels rising and bigger storms coming, these are the areas that are tremendously vulnerable,” Edward Ng, a professor of architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP news agency.
In nearby Macau, casinos were shut down on Sunday for the first time in the island’s history, writing off $186 million in revenue.
On Monday, extensive flooding in parts of the city forced emergency workers to rescue people from their shops and homes using boats and jet-skis.
The storm has since barreled across Guangdong province in southern China, but the winds have subsided after packing gusts of up to 162km/h, according to the provincial meteorological center.
Earlier, more than 3.1 million people were evacuated, the official Nanfang Daily reported.
All flights were canceled at Guangzhou and Shenzhen airports but operations were due to resume later on Monday. High-speed-rail services were suspended in Guangdong and Hainan provinces.
At least four people died in southern China. Three were killed by falling trees in the sprawling port city of Guangzhou. Another person died after a building collapsed in Dongguan, the state-owned People’s Daily reported.
“Southern regions including the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian and Hainan have been hit by gales and storms,” the National Meteorological Center told China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Before Mangkhut carved its way across the region, the United Nations Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System had predicted that 43.4 million people could be affected by the typhoon.
“[It] is relatively rare at the top of the severe scale,” Greg Browning, a tropical climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, said.