A 38-year-old camper trapped on a remote islet with his elderly mother while their belongings were blown away by Typhoon Higos told Hong Kong rescuers he was unaware of the imminent storm as he had been there since last Friday.
The duo, who were on Tap Mun (Grass Island), called emergency services at about 7am on Wednesday – when the No 9 typhoon signal was still in force – to say they were stuck and that their camping supplies had all blown away.
They were reportedly uninjured. But the mother, 70, showed signs of hypothermia.
Police had sought help from the Government Flying Service in a bid to airlift the woman to hospital but a helicopter could not be deployed because of the bad weather. The rescue team had to hike up to the camping spot.
Officers led the pair downhill and a marine police launch was deployed to pick up mother and son, ferrying them to the shore in Sai Kung.
According to a police source, the man lives in Fanling. He went camping on the island last Friday and his mother joined him on Tuesday.
“He told officers that he did not receive any information about the arrival of the typhoon because there was no mobile phone signal at the campsite,” the source said.
The Observatory had issued the No 1 standby signal early on Tuesday and raised it to No 3 in the afternoon. It was further upgraded to No 8 at 10.40pm, and to No 9 overnight as Higos edged to the coast of Pearl River Delta.
According to Observatory data, the maximum sustained wind speed recorded at Tap Mun was 71km/h from 2.30am to 3.30am, while gusts of up to 85km/h were recorded. Between 4.30am and 5.30am, the maximum sustained wind speed recorded there was 76km/h, with maximum gusts at 101km/h.
To Fon-yau, a Tap Mun village head, who was not on the island during the typhoon, said: “I heard that they had camped on a hillside grassland, not near the settlements and there is no cover or shelter nearby. Most villagers had stayed home and were not aware of their ordeal. If the villagers had known about it, they would have offered assistance, or would have asked them not to stay on the island during a typhoon.”
Higos was closest to Hong Kong between 2am and 3am on Wednesday, just about 80km southwest of the Observatory.
It was the first time the Observatory had issued a No 9 signal since Super Typhoon Mangkhut hammered the city on September 16, 2018 and intensified into a powerful No 10 storm.
Higos is the third storm of the typhoon season and the strongest so far to affect Hong Kong this year.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old man died in the afternoon after he was believed to have been diving at a site dubbed “Hero Waterfall” at Ma Tai Stream in Ma On Shan Country Park. All typhoon signals had been cancelled by then.
The victim, of Pakistani origin, fell 10 metres into the water at about 3.40pm. His friend called for help and the man was found unconscious later by firefighters. He was airlifted to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan where he died.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.