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Hong Kong Hit by Heaviest Rainfall in 139 Years

Rainfall has wreaked havoc in the densely populated cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. This catastrophe has left residents grappling with flash flooding, transportation disruptions, and widespread chaos.


As the extreme weather continues, authorities are urging residents to seek shelter and take precautions. In Hong Kong, the downpour began late Thursday night and continued into Friday. The Hong Kong Observatory has recorded more than 158 millimeters (6.2 inches) of rain between 11 p.m. and midnight.

Submerged vehicles in a parking lot in Hong Kong.
Submerged vehicles in a parking lot in Hong Kong. Photo| Courtesy

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As a result, this has been marked the highest hourly rainfall in recorded history since 1884. In some low-lying areas, streets transformed into raging torrents, trapping motorists in their vehicles and forcing authorities into swift rescue operations.

Additionally, some parts of Hong Kong saw an astonishing 500 millimeters (19.7 inches) of rainfall within just 24 hours. This is according to online weather data site OGimet. The extreme weather event took many residents by surprise, coming a few days after Typhoon Saola.

Typhoon Saola, one of the strongest typhoons in five years, had battered the region. Saola, originally a super typhoon, weakened to the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane upon hitting Hong Kong. This resulted in widespread disruptions and injuries to 86 people, according to government reports.

Friday’s torrential rain once again led to widespread disruptions across the financial hub. Consequently, the stock market cancelled morning trading and all schools closed for the day. Authorities appealed to businesses to allow non-essential employees to stay home or seek safe shelter, citing dangerous travel conditions.

Stuart Hargreaves, a Hong Kong resident and professor, recounted his harrowing experience as he was stranded in his car overnight due to impassable flooded roads.

“Water was coming over the hood of the car, and I thought it was going to flood the engine.”

He was eventually able to drive home, but the road was piled with debris from landslides and abandoned vehicles.

A road blocked in Hong Kong after debris from a landslide scattered all over. Photo| Courtesy

As of Friday afternoon, 119 people have been reported injured as a result of the floods. According to Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority, four are in serious condition. The government warned that such extreme conditions were expected to persist until at least midnight.

In a bid to manage the crisis, the Mass Transit Railway in Hong Kong announced the suspension of services on one of its lines. This was after a station in the Wong Tai Sin district was flooded. Shocking footage shared widely online depicted floodwater gushing down the station’s stairs. Also, workers at a different station were shown struggling in knee-deep water to prevent further flooding.

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While some subway operations remained operational, major bus, tram, and ferry services were suspended. This additionally created challenges for commuters. Many roads were also closed due to the threat of landslides in the mountainous terrain, prompting authorities to issue the highest “black” rainstorm warning for the first time in two years.

Videos from Thursday evening showcased floodwater entering the first floors of buildings and shopping malls. The rushing water left debris scattered across the floors.

Moreover, in Shenzhen, a neighboring city of Hong Kong on the Chinese mainland, the downpours also shattered multiple rainfall records. These include the maximum rainfall records over various time periods. According to Chinese state media, some of these records had stood since 1952.

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Shenzhen experienced 469 millimeters (about 18.5 inches) of rain from 5 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday. As a result, schools were closed, transportation was disrupted, and six subway lines were suspended.

Furthermore, concerns have arisen about potential flooding in Hong Kong’s northern New Territories district, which borders Shenzhen. The neighboring city announced plans to release water from a reservoir.


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