There was measured urgency at Happy Valley’s Fusion supermarket the afternoon before Mangkhut hit. The checkout line was long, trolleys were packed; the poultry section was stripped of chickens; shelves normally stacked with bottled water were empty but for a couple of six-packs of the more expensive stuff – Perrier loses appeal when nature’s force is about to unleash, apparently.
As the shoppers stocked up on their just-in-case provisions, Mangkhut was a Super Typhoon roaring across the South China Sea, advancing upon Hong Kong with destructive menace. Outside, the still air was cooking beneath the blazing sun – literally, the calm before the storm.
In a first floor flat, just off the back of Blue Pool Road, three children played Lego, watched a movie, ran around, laughed, grabbed, tumbled, shrieked and argued. There was added tension within the walls; Mother would not be home before the storm.
Two days prior, at 1.52am, the family’s fourth child was born in Queen Mary Hospital, Pok Fu Lam, on the Southwestern side of Hong Kong Island. All good. Perfect timing, given that healthy mothers and their babies are discharged after 48 hours. But a case of jaundice in the little one meant a further night in the Neonatal Intensive
Care Unit – Saturday night.
The weather worsened as the evening advanced; the wind picked up; rainfall came. By Sunday morning, the rain was lashing down and the typhoon was gusting with uncommon ferocity. The Hong Kong Observatory’s maximum T10 signal had been hoisted and the city had battened down for a rough 12 hours.
Inside the apartment in the sheltered backstreets of Happy Valley, the three children watched movies, played, ate lunch and dinner, and enjoyed their “Typhoon Day” oblivious to the extent of the damage being wreaked outside. Only the occasional crash, smash or bang in the back alley gave warning that this storm was the most powerful to have slammed Hong Kong since records were first kept in the 1940s. Their father monitored events on social media: friends posting videos of their high-rise homes swaying; storm surges washing over seawalls; windows wind-blasted to oblivion; storm watchers knocked off their feet.
And then it was over. By 8pm the T10 had been regraded to a T8 and the children went happily to bed, excited for what the next morning might bring. Within two hours, Mother and baby were home. Calm restored, perhaps.