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Hong Kong’s worst typhoons

Hong Kong is relatively safe from natural disasters but a T10 typhoon is capable of causing death and destruction, as our city’s history shows...

Hong Kong typhoon
By Time Out Hong Kong |

We’re all too familiar with typhoons in Hong Kong. Theyre a regular occurence come the summer, and though our weather extremes in this city arent that extreme, the worst typhoons can be pretty terrifying.

Recently, they’ve been more Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day than The Day After Tomorrow cataclysm as we haven’t seen a full-on T10 since 2012. However, that’s not going to stop us from looking back at the biggest typhoons in Hong Kong history...

Hong Kong’s 10 worst typhoons

Hong Kong Typhoon 1874
Lai Afong

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...

Hong Kong Typhoon 1906

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...

Hong Kong Typhoon 1937

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.

Typhoon Mary, 1960

Also known as Bloody Mary, this bitch 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.

Typhoon Wanda
Hong Kong Observatory

Typhoon Wanda, 1962

Another September hitter, the 1st saw Wanda strike 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 Rose 1971

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.

Typhoon Ellen 1983
Hong Kong Observatory

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.

Typhoon York 1999
Hong Kong Observatory

Typhoon York, 1999

When York marched in on September 16 and 17, the T10 signal was hoisted for a record 11 hours, during which winds uprooted more than 4,300 trees, shattered over 400 windows in 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 Vicente 2012

Typhoon Vicente, 2012

Vicente was the most recent T10 to 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.

typhoon hato

Typhoon Hato, 2017

One of the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Hong Kong in the past 50 years, and 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 including Lei Yue Mun, Tai O and a Heng Fa Chuen carpark completely submerged. Crazy strong winds smashed the windows of four residential flats due to a neglected gondola was left dangling on the side of a high-rise building. 700 trees were also reported fallen and blocking roads. Let’s just say, Hato is one to remember for the modern ages. 

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