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Typhoon York Pounds Hong Kong

September 16, 1999

HONG KONG (AP) _ Typhoon York pounded Hong Kong with a direct hit today, blowing windows out of downtown skyscrapers, triggering flooding and blocking roads with uprooted trees, while officials warned dangerous landslides could come next.

One man died after being struck by flying debris and at least 216 people were injured in the worst storm to hit Hong Kong in 16 years, a government spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The typhoon, packing maximum winds of 93 mph, forced the closure of schools, financial markets and most businesses. Ferry services to outlying islands and to the neighboring Portuguese enclave of Macau were suspended, as fishing boats scurried for cover.

Typhoon York was the most powerful tropical storm to hit Hong Kong since Typhoon Ellen struck on Sept. 9, 1983, the government said. Ellen killed at least eight people, though several more were missing at sea.

Typhoon York was whipped up by ``dramatic changes in strength and direction of wind,″ said K.M. Leung, senior scientific officer at the Hong Kong Observatory.

The observatory raised a No. 10 hurricane signal, the strongest warning Hong Kong meteorologists issue during tropical storms.

Sherrie Wu, a Hong Kong office worker who originally came from Guangzhou, China, stared up at a government building with glass blown out of offices nearly 40 stories up.

``I’ve never seen so much broken glass,″ Wu said. A hotel restaurant waiter, who gave his name only as Gary, called the storm ``the biggest I’ve ever seen.″

Most people stayed home behind boarded up doors and windows.

Hong Kong’s usual early morning bustle gave way to mostly empty streets, littered with fallen trees, rolling trash cans and other debris. The normal Hong Kong traffic noises were gone, replaced by the eerie sound of powerful winds whistling among the massive skyscrapers.

Those few taxi drivers who stayed in business were charging double the usual fare _ or more _ for people venturing out in the risky weather.

At least 40 roads were closed, mostly from fallen trees or scaffolding, although at least one was littered with thousands of shards of glass after window panes came plunging down from tall office buildings.

Three small Chinese boats got into trouble just outside Hong Kong waters, but Hong Kong rescue crews were able to dispatch a helicopter during a lull in the storm to rescue five crew members from one sinking vessel.

Crews of the other two boats were able to anchor in sheltered areas where they were waiting for Chinese rescuers, according to Capt. Ravi Dewan at Hong Kong’s Marine Rescue Coordination Center.

A liquified petroleum gas tanker was set adrift but officials towed it to safety with no casualties or gas leakage.

Officials said 564 people had sought refuge in emergency shelters. There were scattered power outages, with some remote villages cut off, and government-run Radio Hong Kong reported at least 80 people were trapped in the elevators that are common in Hong Kong’s many high-rise apartment houses.

Update hourly