Cargo ship sinks as Typhoon Utor hits Hong Kong


HONG KONG: A 190-metre long cargo ship sank off Hong Kong Wednesday in a powerful typhoon that generated towering waves and forced much of the city to shut down, after leaving six dead in the Philippines.

The 21 crew of the bulk carrier Trans Summer abandoned ship as the vessel  tipped on its side and sank 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Hong Kong, triggering a rescue that saw them plucked from the heavy seas by two helicopter  teams and a passing ship.
“The waves were 10 to 15 metres (30-50 feet) high. The wind was 90  kilometres per hour,” said Samuel Yip of the city’s Flying Service, a pilot who  took part in the operation. 
“The air crew saw the ship was leaning to the left side by about 20 to 30  degrees and started to sink when it tilted almost 90 degrees,” he told AFP.
Typhoon Utor left at least six dead when it swept across the Philippines on  Monday, flattening houses and causing flash floods and landslides.
As it headed for mainland China, it barrelled past Hong Kong where it  forced the closure of financial markets, schools and businesses, and disrupted hundreds of flights.
Gusts of more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour were recorded, with  rain lashing down, as the Hong Kong Observatory hoisted a “Number 8” storm warning in the early hours of Wednesday — the third-highest level.
As the typhoon skirted the city about 240 kilometres to the southwest, the  observatory downgraded the warning in the afternoon to “Number 3”, indicating strong winds.
The Airport Authority said almost half of the day’s flights were disrupted,  with 118 cancelled and another 320 delayed. 
Ferry services to outlying islands and mainland China were halted in the  morning, stranding passengers at various terminals. 
A government spokesman said six people were treated in public hospitals for  storm-related injuries and there were six cases of minor flooding.
Overnight the government opened 17 temporary shelters, with dozens of  people seeking refuge.
The city’s streets were quiet for much of the day, with many workers  staying home as businesses and schools were shuttered. 
But as the storm passed more people began venturing out, umbrellas hoisted,  as the city returned to normal.
However, the Hong Kong stock exchange had already cancelled Wednesday’s  session and schools remained shut for the afternoon.
Utor made landfall near Yangjiang in China’s Guangdong province and was  forecast to move northwest at about 14 kilometres per hour inland, the observatory said.
In the Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management  Council said the death toll had risen to six, with five people still missing as rescuers rushed to reach areas isolated by the storm.
Two people were confirmed dead in the central island of Cebu after they  were washed away by a flash flood while two fishermen drowned in the eastern  town of Casiguran, the hardest hit by the storm, the council said.
In the northern Philippines one man was crushed by a landslide while  another man drowned, the council said in a statement. Five people, mostly  fishermen, were listed as missing.
Almost 42,000 people were still homeless in the Philippines after Utor  toppled light structures, ripped the roofs off homes and buildings, and  inundated farms, the council said. Some towns were cut off by landslides or  fallen trees. 
As the weather cleared, relief agencies sent workers and supplies to the  ravaged towns while heavy equipment was deployed to clear the roads.
Hundreds of people die from the roughly 20 typhoons or tropical storms that  strike the Philippines each year.
Utor hit land with wind gusts reaching 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour  early Monday, making it the strongest storm this year, according to the  Philippine weather bureau. - AFP

Dark clouds brought by Typhoon Utor are seen over the city's skyline in Hong Kong on August 14, 2013. Hong Kong battened down as Typhoon Utor forced the closure of the city's financial market and schools and disrupted hundreds of flights after leaving six dead in the Philippines. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez

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