Extremely heavy rains brought by the remnants of Typhoon “Haikui” caused severe floods across Hong Kong on September 8, 2023, causing widespread disruption, evacuations, and leading to at least two fatalities.
Typhoon Haikui, which made landfall in China’s Fujian province on September 5, has now battered the city of Hong Kong with the heaviest hourly rainfall ever recorded since data collection began 140 years ago.
The Hong Kong observatory registered a staggering 158.1 mm (6.2 inches) within a single hour, marking an unprecedented climatic event.
Though Typhoon Haikui had already weakened into a tropical depression, its remnants continued to wreak havoc. Compounding the situation was the fact that these areas were still recuperating from a super typhoon that had struck just a week prior. This resulted in accumulative rainfall exceeding 600 mm (23.6 inches), representing a quarter of the city’s average annual precipitation.
Residents were greeted with the alarming sight of water cascading down the steep hillsides. Narrow streets were submerged waist-deep, while shopping malls, metro stations, and tunnels faced inundation. Videos circulating on social media bore witness to the severity, showcasing streets transformed into raging rivers and subways becoming reservoirs.
In response to the escalating situation, the Hong Kong Observatory sounded its highest “black” rainstorm alert. They issued warnings of imminent flash floods, especially to those in close proximity to rivers. Additionally, concerns about potential landslides prompted advisories for motorists to maintain a safe distance from steep slopes and retaining walls.
Hong Kong’s leader, John Lee, expressed his profound concern and ordered all departments to act swiftly and efficiently to mitigate the impact. Due to the challenging conditions, schools were declared closed for the day. Non-essential workers were advised to stay home for safety. The stock exchange also remained closed, and MTR Corp, the entity responsible for the city’s rail network, reported suspensions and delays on several lines.
Amid these disruptions, many attempted to proceed with their daily activities, with taxis wading through waterlogged streets and commuters trying to reach their destinations. Unfortunately, the floods claimed two lives, as reported by the Hong Kong police. The fire services department, in its efforts, evacuated 110 people and assisted another 20 who were injured.
Criticism arose regarding the city’s preparedness in dealing with such emergencies. Eric Chan, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, responded by stating the unpredictability of rainfall events in comparison to typhoons. He reassured that various departments were working tirelessly to address the situation.
The ramifications of this deluge weren’t confined to Hong Kong. Neighboring Shenzhen also faced record-breaking rainfall, measuring 465.5 mm (18.3 inches) within just 12 hours – the heaviest since its meteorological records began in 1952. In Guangdong’s Meizhou, over 11 000 people were evacuated from areas submerged in water. Moreover, Beijing has now issued flood disaster warnings as it braces for heavy rains expected to continue through Saturday night.
The rain from Haikui fell on an area previously drenched by Typhoon “Saola”, which had caused large-scale evacuations and disruptions in Hong Kong and parts of mainland China’s coastal regions on September 2. However, the damage from Saola appeared minimal compared to the impact of remnants of Haikui.