, Macau, Macao, Aug 25 – The Chinese army on Friday joined relief efforts in Macau where at least nine people are now known to have died when a huge typhoon swept through the gambling hub.
Around 48 hours after Severe Typhoon Hato smashed into southern China, worst-hit Macau was still picking up the pieces, with the enclave’s government facing recriminations over its lack of preparation.
The government sent a request to Chinese authorities asking for the assistance of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Macau garrison to assist in relief efforts, the first such request since the city was handed over to China in 1999.
“The PLA Macau Garrison have joined hands with the Macau Government and the Macau public for post-typhoon relief and construction work,” a government statement said Friday.
Authorities said around 1,000 troops were mobilised in the morning.
Residents volunteered to pick debris off the streets alongside troops who were seen clearing away items ranging from computer equipment to gas cylinders.
The official tally in the city hit nine on Friday after a man’s body was pulled from a car park.
A further eight people are known to have died in parts of mainland southwestern China.
“It’s been absolutely devastating for Macau,” Andrew Scott, chief executive officer of O MEDIA, a media company in the city, told AFP.
“There is a real air of despondency. Each addition to the death toll is absolutely demoralising to the citizens of Macau,” he said.
A taxi driver who identified himself as Ben said he expected the PLA to handle the clean-up effectively.
“There are so many disasters in China, they can handle it in a couple of days, a situation like this could be quite easy for them,” he said.
– ‘Extremely difficult’ –
On Thursday evening, as residents of the former Portuguese colony queued for drinking water, Macau’s leader Fernando Chui and other government ministers bowed their heads for a minute’s silence and made a public apology.
“These two days, we have faced an extremely difficult test together. Hato is the strongest typhoon in 53 years and has brought tremendous damage to Macau,” Chui told reporters.
“In facing this disaster, we admit we have not done enough, there is space for improvement,” he said, adding that the city’s meteorological bureau chief had resigned.
Casinos, which brought in more than $28 billion in 2016 — over half of Macau’s GDP — were among the casualties of the storm, and reporters who got inside the Wynn Macau found switched off slot machines and no air conditioning.
Other casinos and resort facilities in the city were either shut or running at limited capacity.
“It will probably take at least a week to normalise again and for visitors to feel comfortable about coming again,” gaming analyst Ben Lee of IGamiX consultancy told AFP, adding that some casinos were unprepared for the severity of the storm.
In Hong Kong, Hato — whose name is Japanese for “pigeon” — sparked the most severe Typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years.
Although 120 people were hurt, there were no fatalities in the city, where careful planning and long experience with extreme weather is credited with limiting the devastation.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Observatory was warning of another tropical cyclone heading towards the area and due to make landfall some time on Sunday.