Typhoon leaves HK airport in chaos

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HONG KONG: Hordes of angry passengers stranded after Typhoon Nida pummeled Hong Kong crowded the airport on Tuesday, desperately seeking flights as the city emerges from lockdown while the storm swept across southern China.

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Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools and shops shut and the stock market closed for the day as the storm brought violent winds and torrential showers.

Gusts of 151 kilometers per hour whipped the city and rain lashed down during the night, leaving three people injured and a trail of fallen trees and torn-down scaffolding.

The storm triggered a Typhoon 8 signal — the third-strongest category — which was taken down a notch around midday Tuesday as winds eased and the typhoon passed onto mainland China.

But as the city’s deserted streets began to come to life as buses and train services resumed, Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport was inundated with stranded passengers.

An airport authority spokesman said only 500 flights would run between 6 a.m. and midnight local time on Tuesday. On a normal day, the airport would handle 1,100 flights.

More than 150 flights were cancelled Monday as Nida approached, leaving stranded passengers to sleep on the floor in the departure hall.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair cancelled all of their flights in and out of Hong Kong for 16 hours, from 10 p.m. Monday until 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Security guards prevented passengers without flights from reaching check-in desks Tuesday, redirecting them to another part of the airport to seek help from staff.

Some complained that airline staff had not given them food vouchers or emergency accommodation despite lengthy waits.

“The airline was giving inconsistent information. There was no announcement whatsoever about accommodation, food or the weather situation. It’s chaotic,” one passenger told local channel TVB.

Another passenger from the Philippines said he had not been provided with food or accommodation, despite being at the airport since 7 p.m. Monday. His flight has been rescheduled for 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

After sweeping past Hong Kong, Nida made landfall early Tuesday in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, with winds still blowing at up to 151 kilometers per hour.

It was the strongest typhoon to hit the Pearl River delta in 30 years, the China News Service cited experts as saying.

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