Chapter 3:Recovery Phase

Mangkhut paralyzed the city for 29 hours, during which Typhoon Signal No. 8, 9 and 10 were in effect respectively since 16 Sep (Sun) [1]. After the cancellation of Typhoon Signal No. 8 at the next day (17 Sep, Mon) at 5:20am, the city started to resume its routines, with public transport and businesses gradually restoring their operation.

  1. Transport
    Before Typhoon Signal No.8 was canceled in the early morning, different government departments and public transport operators such as MTR already deployed technicians to carry out urgent repair for road surface and traffic lights [2]. Despite the collaborated efforts across departments, most public transport services were disrupted due to the extensive damage caused by the strong typhoon [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

    • MTR
      Facilities along outdoor sections of the railway were severely impaired, which only made it possible for MTR to provide limited services. Among all lines, the East Rail and Light Rail lines suffered the most significant impact, causing crowds of passengers to be stuck in the stations.

    • Bus
      More than 100 bus routes were suspended due to the blockade of major roads by fallen trees. Most districts were met with congested traffic.

    • Taxi and Minibus
      Due to the disruptions of MTR and bus services, many citizens turned to taxis and minibuses. Some taxi and minibus drivers are reported to have charged extra fees amid a surge in demand and poor road conditions. While some passengers reacted with understanding, others were outraged.

    • Ferry
      Most ferry services could not resume immediately, affecting people who live on outlying islands.

    • Flight
      More than 800 flights were canceled and 1,000 flights rescheduled, affecting at least 3,000 travelers.

  2. Work arrangement

    Since transport services and road conditions were not fully restored by the rush hours to allow smooth commuting, many citizens were unable to report duty on time [12].

    These pictures were widely circulated online to depict the hassle and frustration of many workers attempting to report duty after the storm.
    (Source: Internet)

    In the light of the chaos, Chief Executive of HKSAR Mrs. Carrie Lam urged employers to be thoughtful and flexible with work arrangement on that day [13]. Some companies and public organizations responded to the appeal [14] [15] [16]. Yet some citizens claimed to have lost bonus or holiday leave due to their late arrival to work [13].

  3. Street cleaning

    In the aftermath of Mangkhut, trash, debris, fallen twigs and leaves were found everywhere, blocking the way of vehicles and pedestrians. As soon as the typhoon left Hong Kong, the government deployed extra manpower to clear the streets [2], while citizens also volunteered to clean up public areas, such as local residential estates, streets and waterfront to fulfill their civic responsibilities [17] [18].

    The considerable amount of debris required a long time to clear [19]. Some citizens started questioning the progress in cleaning, as the aftermath of the storm did not cease to disrupt their daily routines [20].

  4. Tree care and disposal

    Manghkut has caused damage to a significant number of trees. The authorities inspected the conditions of trees post-typhoon, and removed hanging branches and unstable trees for public safety. To store the wood waste, the government has set up a temporary collection area in Kai Tak where free pick up for recycling was allowed [2].

    In retrospect, tree experts pointed out that the mismatch in tree species and planting locations, as well as the lack of routine tree care had combined to cause the high rate of tree fall [21].

  5. School

    On 16 Sep (Sun) night, when the Hurricane Signal No.10 was still in force, the Education Bureau (EDB) announced class suspension for all kindergartens, primary, secondary and special education schools in the next day, 17 Sep (Mon), whether or not there would be any Tropical Cyclone or Rainstorm Warning Signal in effect [22]. Such an arrangement helped ease the demand for public transport to some extent.

    For the safety of students, class suspension was extended for one more day to 18 Sep (Tue) to continue the unfinished work of reparation and cleaning [23].

    EDB also granted extra funding to the schools which required replacements of impaired facilities and equipment [2].


Lessons Learned


The chaos in the recovery phase could be avoided if we have a proper recovery planning before disaster, such as predicting possible damages and preparing corresponding measures to react to them. Resources can be identified in advance and countermeasures to potential impacts discussed during the planning process (see Preparedness: For Community).

After the destruction brought by Mangkhut, the government initiated plans to review the preparedness, response and recovery actions to revise the existing Government Contingency Plan for Natural Disasters, as well as the mechanism of communications and coordination [24]. It would invite lawmakers' opinions on the revision  [25].

Some workers urged for the suspension of work upon severe weather. In response to such views, some lawmakers and union leaders suggested the possibility of drafting legislations for clear work arrangement under special conditions [26], e.g. allowing reasonable absence after inclement weather [27].[28].

The confusion in work arrangement also suggested the need for discussion between employers and employees beforehand to ensure staff safety and smooth operation under and after inclement weather. General guidelines of relevant matters can be found in the "Code of Practice in Times of Typhoons and Rainstorms" from the government  [19] [29].

Tree experts recommended improvement of tree care and re-plantation of resilient and adaptive tree species. The government launched the "Street Tree Selection Guide (Guide)" [30]and urge departments responsible for routine tree care to refer to the Guide  [31].

Public transport services were in turmoil subsequent to the attack of Mangkhut. Not long after, MTR was caught in another service disruption with four of its lines paralyzed by signaling errors (October 2018). Meanwhile, there was also a service delay of Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) due to computer system failure (February 2019). In the light of frequent disruptions of public transport services, there is a pressing need to review the operators' contingency plans to minimize the impact on passengers [32]