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Typhoon York Pounds Hong Kong

September 16, 1999

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

One man died after being struck by flying debris, another was missing and at least 441 people were injured _ 11 seriously _ in the worst storm to hit Hong Kong in 16 years, a government spokesman said, using customary anonymity.

A rescue canoeist was still missing late today after going in search of two surfers from the nearby island of Cheung Chau, officials said. The surfers were found alive.

The typhoon, packing maximum winds of 93 mph, forced the closure of schools, financial markets and most businesses. Ferry service to outlying islands and to the neighboring Portuguese enclave of Macau was 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.

The Hong Kong Observatory raised a No. 10 hurricane signal, the strongest warning Hong Kong meteorologists issue during tropical storms and one that had not gone up since Typhoon Ellen. Ellen killed at least eight people, and several more were missing at sea.

After almost 11 hours of hurricane-force winds that turned Hong Kong into a chaotic mess, officials said the typhoon was moving toward mainland China.

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.

Many 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 through massive skyscrapers.

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

Parts of at least 68 roads were closed, mostly because they were blocked by fallen trees or scaffolding.

The storm brought chaos to Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport, where 101 flights were canceled, 138 delayed and 13 diverted by early evening.

Three small Chinese boats got into trouble just outside Hong Kong waters, but 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.

Officials said by early Thursday night that 674 people had sought refuge in emergency shelters. Scattered power outages cut off some remote villages. Power failures left almost 400 people trapped in the elevators that are common in Hong Kong’s many high-rise apartment houses, according to firefighters who spent all day freeing the people.

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