HONG KONG — Streets and subway stations were underwater in Hong Kong on Friday as officials shut schools and workplaces.
Hong Kong and southern Chinese cities are battling widespread flooding as the region endures some of its heaviest rainfall on record. The weather bureau said the downpour, which began on Thursday, is the biggest to hit the city in nearly 140 years.
Emergency services said more than 100 people had been taken to hospital and several rescues had taken place.
Pictures from the city on Thursday night showed the torrential rain turning streets into raging rivers, flooding shopping centers and public transport.
Videos on social media showed people climbing onto cars and other elevated platforms to escape the waters, which have risen several metres high in some areas, blocking off subway entrances.
The city’s cross-harbor tunnel, a key route connecting the main island to the Kowloon peninsula in its north, was inundated. The rain also triggered landslides in Hong Kong’s mountainous areas – blocking some highways.
By Friday afternoon, the downpours had somewhat eased with authorities downgrading the rainstorm from a “black” warning to “amber” alert. But they warned showers were expected to persist until Saturday.
On Thursday, authorities had issued the black warning, which is triggered when rainfall exceeds 70mm an hour. The Hong Kong Observatory later that night reported an hourly rainfall of 158.1 millimetres, the highest since records began in 1884.
More than 200mm of rain was recorded on Hong Kong island, Kowloon and the north-eastern part of the city between 18:00 local time (10:00 GMT) and midnight – a total that exceeds the amount the entire city typically receives within certain months.
Heavy rain has also drenched southern China, with the city of Shenzhen – across the border from Hong Kong – reporting its heaviest showers since records began in 1952.
Hundreds of flights have been suspended in the wider Guangdong province, while local authorities advised residents in low-lying areas to consider evacuations.
Tens of millions of people live in the densely populated coastal areas of southern China.
On Thursday night, Shenzhen discharged water from its reservoirs after issuing a notice to Hong Kong — an action that raised questions from Hong Kong locals online as to whether this exacerbated their city’s flooding.
But Hong Kong’s security chief Chris Tang said on Friday the discharge had no impact on the city’s floods and the action was safe for both Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
China’s meteorological administration expects extreme rainfall to continue in the country’s southwestern region on Friday and Saturday.
The latest downpour comes less than a week after two typhoons, Saola and Haikui, hit southern China in quick succession — and sparked a citywide shutdown in Hong Kong.
Climate change has increased the intensity and frequency of tropical storms, leading to an increase in flash flooding and greater damage. — BBC