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Saturday, September 15, 2018, 01:04
Govt boosts preparations for Typhoon Mangkhut
By Li Bingcun
Saturday, September 15, 2018, 01:04 By Li Bingcun

A glass wall of a McDonald's restaurant in Heng Fa Chuen, Hong Kong Island, is taped up on Friday in preparation for approaching Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which is forecast to hit Hong Kong on Sunday. (Roy Liu/China Daily)

HONG KONG – The government announced on Friday that it will deploy two buses to evacuate some 300 residents living in squatter housing in flood-prone Tai O, as one of its several steps to cope with Super Typhoon Mangkhut.

The special arrangement, which will start on Saturday, is the first time in recent years the government has adopted in response to a typhoon, said Vega Wong Sau-wai, assistant director of the Home Affairs Department, at a press briefing on the government’s preparation work for Mangkhut.

Such arrangements followed a rare appeal made by the department one day earlier which called on residents in Tai O and the city’s other low-lying areas to evacuate.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut is predicted to land this weekend, bringing Hong Kong heavy rain, squalls and storm surges. Seas will be high with swells.

Hong Kong Observatory Assistant Director Cheng Cho-ming, who was also at the press conference, said the No 8 typhoon signal would “very likely” be issued on Sunday. He added that whether a higher warning would be issued depends on changes to Mangkhut after it passes Luzon in the Philippines and how close it will get to Hong Kong on Sunday.

The observatory earlier forecasted that Mangkhut will be closest to Hong Kong on Sunday evening, with a wind speed of more than 200 kilometers per hour near center. 

Besides deploying coaches, the Home Affairs Department will also open a round-the-clock hotline – 2835 1473 – for the public right after a No 1 typhoon signal is issued and an emergency coordination center if the alert is raised to signal No 3, said Wong.

In previous typhoons, the government would only open a round-the-clock hotline for signal No 3 and the coordination center for signal No 8. 

The department will also open 48 temporary shelters to residents in need after a No 3 signal is hoisted, according to a statement issued earlier.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, who presided over Friday’s press conference, urged the public to prepare for the worst.

“And whether it will go up to even higher, of course we should pay more attention to, but the important advice is, the precautionary measures should be taken as if this is the highest level,” warned Lee. 

But the security chief assured that the government would act as soon as needed. 

The press conference was held after nine government departments including the Observatory and Home Affairs Department held a second cross-departmental meeting to examine measures to cope with Mangkhut on the same day.

Earlier on Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told reporters that the “fully prepared” government will mobilize all the manpower needed and to provide required facilities.

She also urged local residents to stay indoors and not to be “storm chasers” - which may be dangerous and put more workloads on rescue workers.

To battle the typhoon, the neighboring Macao Special Administrative Region Government had also stepped up its efforts.

The Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau has made contingency arrangements to manage its greening facilities during tropical cyclones. The bureau also has started removing lanterns and decorations for the coming Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 24.

The Social Welfare Bureau has closed 33 facilities in Macao’s lowland area, and is cooperating with more than 10 local community service centers to offer voluntary services in response to the typhoon.

bingcun@chinadailyhk.com

Yang Zekun contributed to the story.

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