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Wrap-up: Hong Kong greenery bears brunt of Mangkhut’s wrath

08 October 2018

It’s almost unbelievable. Despite the havoc caused by powerful winds of Mangkhut on Sept 16, the severe typhoon left no fatality in a densely populated metropolis like Hong Kong. But a personal survey this writer conducted a day after the howler showed the intensity of the damage it wrought on Hong Kong’s greenery. From Eastern Hong Kong where the typhoon first struck, to the slopes of Lam Tsuen Country Park in Fanling, trees large and small had been uprooted, broken beyond repair, or badly damaged.

At the Quarry Bay Park promenade, rows of young trees that only the day before had turned the garden into a mini-forest had fallen in one direction – westward. Around Po Lam and Hang Hau in Tseung Kwan O, large banyans and fig trees that had shaded the district’s sidewalks had been toppled and lain there for days, blocking the paths of pedestrians and bikers. The destruction was repeated all over Hong Kong. Many sections of its famous trails were closed to hikers due to trees felled by Mangkhut’s gusts.

Those living near the coasts suffered extensive damage
All told, more than 17,000 trees had been toppled by the strongest typhoon to have hit Hong Kong, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said. The magnitude of the damage has simply overwhelmed government agencies responsible for the clean-up. The Home Affairs Department and various District Offices joined hands with the relevant departments to clear fallen trees, refuse and road obstructions. At the Kai Tak temporary refuse impoundment center, more than 1,000 truckloads of arboreal debris have been dumped since the morning after Mangkhut while city officials think of what to do with the surplus wood. – Vir B. Lumicao

Worst typhoon
It was the worst typhoon I’ve experienced in my 32 years in Hong Kong, in terms of the damage it wrought on the city. And I’ve witnessed a lot up close, having worked for a local TV station for years, when everyone in the staff was required to report for work whenever signal no 8 was raised at the approach of a typhoon.

Personally, we weren’t hit hard because we’re just on the first floor, and apart from our potted plants and our heavy barbecue grill being toppled by the wind, we hardly felt the typhoon’s ferocity.

But when I got out the next day, I was struck at how powerful Mangkhut was. A lot of big trees were uprooted, including those that I’d seen around for ages. Diagonally across United Centre where the Philippine Consulate is located, a big and ancient tree was uprooted, and its heavy trunk blocked two lanes of Queensway. At nearby Admiralty Park, it looked like a giant monster had passed, and trampled on all the plants and trees on its path. Saplings that lined the island divider along Connaught Road, from Causeway Bay to Admiralty, were almost all felled. Mangkhut was that powerful.

A tunnel in Shatin fills with flood water.
Days after the onslaught, many fallen trees remained on the road, and several buildings, including the Immigration Tower in Wanchai, still had their broken glass windows plastered temporarily with wood or other objects to keep the elements out.

It seemed like Hong Kong was left in shock at Mangkhut’s ferocity that it took time before it could get back on its feet.

It was, to me, mostly luck that nobody was killed or injured seriously amid the typhoon’s wrath. But I now fear the consequences should another super typhoon head for Hong Kong, and make a direct hit. I hope that does not happen, but it maybe worth it for the city to be better prepared next time. – Daisy CL Mandap

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