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Photograph: Dale de la Rey/AFP | 颱風蘇拉襲港

13 Worst typhoons in Hong Kong history

A look back on the city's most destructive storms

Jenny Leung
Edited by
Jenny Leung
Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

Hong Kong is relatively safe from natural disasters, but we've definitely seen our fair share of typhoons. They're a regular occurrence during summertime, and though they are mostly Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day rather than The Day After Tomorrow cataclysm (not that we're complaining), the worst ones can be pretty terrifying as our city's history shows. Here's a look back on some of the biggest typhoons that have ever hit Hong Kong.

RECOMMENDED: Don't let the drabby weather stop you from exploring the city (as long as it's safe, of course); here are 38 indoor activities to escape the rain in Hong Kong.

A history of Hong Kong’s worst typhoons

Black Rainstorm, 2023
Photograph: AFP

1. Black Rainstorm, 2023

This particular rainstorm that hit Hong Kong on September 7 and 8 was definitely one for the history books. As the remnants of tropical cyclone Haikui passed by, a Black Rainstorm Warning was issued for an unprecedented duration of 16 hours and 35 minutes – the longest ever recorded since the warning system was introduced in 1992. On September 7, the Hong Kong Observatory measured an astounding hourly rainfall of 158.1 millimetres, shattering records dating back to 1884.

The storm brought about flash floods and landslides, causing widespread disruptions to traffic and damage to buildings. Initial reports mentioned 75 landslides and 60 instances of flooding. People found themselves stranded in various parts of the city, with some having to evacuate their homes. Temporary interruptions occurred in power and water supply in certain areas. Sadly, two fatalities were reported, and over 140 individuals were injured during the rainstorm.

Typhoon Saola, 2023
Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP | 颱風蘇拉吹襲鯉魚門2023

2. Typhoon Saola, 2023

Super Typhoon Saola struck Hong Kong on September 1, 2023, prompting the Hong Kong Observatory to issue Hurricane Signal No.10 for the first time since 2018. Saola was one of the strongest tropical cyclones to impact the South China Sea since 1950 and impacted many places in the city, including serious flooding in coastal areas such as Sha Tin, Tai Po, and Tai O. According to reports, there were over 3,000 fallen trees and more than 80 people were injured; thankfully, there were no reported fatalities during the passage of Typhoon Saola.

Typhoon Mangkhut, 2018
Photograph: AFP/Anthony Wallace

3. Typhoon Mangkhut, 2018

On September 16, 2018, just a little over a year after Typhoon Hato hit Hong Kong, Typhoon Mangkhut marked the city's third Hurricane Signal number 10 since 1999. As one of the most powerful storms on record to hit the city, Typhoon Mangkhut ripped its way through Hong Kong causing extensive damage. 

More than 450 people were injured during the passage of Mangkhut, windows were smashed, buildings were rocked (some even crumbled), electricity supply to over 40,000 households in Hong Kong was interrupted, and it was reported that over 60,000 trees had fallen, the highest number on record according to the Observatory. Let’s just say, Mangkhut is one to remember for the modern ages. 

Typhoon Hato, 2017
Photograph: Courtesy cc/wikicommons/Baycrest

4. Typhoon Hato, 2017

The first time in five years for the Observatory to issue T10, Typhoon Hato was a vicious storm to contend with. The storm was responsible for 10 fatalities in our neighbouring SAR of Macau, and major flooding in low-lying areas such as Lei Yue Mun, Tai O, and a Heng Fa Chuen car park, were completely submerged. Crazy strong winds smashed the windows of residential flats and over 5,300 fallen trees or other objects were reported. 

Typhoon Vicente, 2012
Photograph: Courtesy cc/wikicommons/WiNG

5. Typhoon Vicente, 2012

Typhoon Vicente was issued a T10 signal as it hit Hong Kong on July 24. Powerful winds tore up 8,800 trees, blocking main roads and halting MTR services. A station was even turned into a shelter for a night. Although 140 people were injured, fortunately, there were no recorded deaths.

6. Typhoon York, 1999

When York marched in on September 16 and 17, the T10 signal was hoisted for 11 hours, during which winds uprooted more than 4,300 trees, shattered over 400 windows of the Revenue, Immigration, and Wan Chai Towers, tore apart 800 signboards and blew a crane off a roof, which fell 30 stories and struck a 10-storey flat before crashing into the road. Two people died.

Typhoon Ellen, 1983
Photograph: AFP/Government Information Service (GIS)

7. Typhoon Ellen, 1983

Ellen caused 10 deaths, 333 injuries and left 1,600 homeless on September 9. A total of 26 ships ran aground and the famous boat Osprey, from the Jackie Chan movie Project A, sunk with nine young sailors on board, leaving just one survivor. Livestock and crop damage totalled $50m. Water supplies were cut off in Mei Foo and blackouts lasted for up to four days in Kowloon and the New Territories.

8. Typhoon Rose, 1971

On August 17, Typhoon Rose brought with her an ominous fog, which is unusual for a typhoon. 300 ships were damaged including a packed ferry, which resulted in the death of 88 passengers. Damaged telephone wires left 30,000 people without communication and a fire in a Kwun Tong substation left many without electricity, with thousands trapped in elevators.


9. Typhoon Wanda, 1962

Another September hitter, Typhoon Wanda struck with 260km/h winds and a vicious storm that flooded many homes, leaving more than 72,000 people homeless. Fishing vessels were blown into the streets and 2,000 boats were left damaged, with a total of 434 deaths recorded.

Typhoon Mary, 1960
Photograph: Courtesy cc/wikicommons/Ta Kung Pao

10. Typhoon Mary, 1960

Also known as Bloody Mary, this storm hit on June 8. Strong winds lifted large freight ships out of the water and hurled them to land. Mudslides and floods in Hong Kong and southern China meant 100 died and another 18,000 were left homeless.


11. Unnamed typhoon, 1937

On September 2, the Great Hong Kong Typhoon smashed the territory, killing more than 11,000 people. Most of the damage was caused by an 18ft tidal wave that decimated almost all of Sha Tin and Tai Po. This remains the worst typhoon to ever hit Hong Kong and we hope the city never sees such devastation again.

Unnamed typhoon, 1906
Photograph: Courtesy cc/wikicommons/Shizhao/沙田友

12. Unnamed typhoon, 1906

Though Hong Kong had bolstered its typhoon protection after the 1874 incident, a surprise typhoon on September 18 snuck up on the city, with almost no indication until it was just 15 minutes from land. Over the course of two hours the typhoon sank many vessels including the HMS Pheonix (pictured) and killed a staggering five percent of the population – around 10,000 people. But there was even worse to come 30 years later...

Unnamed typhoon, 1874
Photograph: Courtesy cc/wikicommons/Lai Afong

13. Unnamed typhoon, 1874

On September 22 and 23, this typhoon made front-page headlines across the globe as more than 2,000 people were injured and many killed. It’s also recorded as the worst typhoon ever to hit Macau – killing 5,000 people. However, this was nothing compared to 1906...

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