Typhoon Mangkhut pounds south China and Hong Kong

Typhoon Mangkhut barrelled into southern China on Sunday, killing two people after lashing the Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left at least 64 dead and dozens more feared buried in a landslide.

More than 2.4 million people had been evacuated in southern China's Guangdong province by Sunday evening to flee the massive typhoon and nearly 50,000 fishing boats were called back to port, state media reported. It threatened to be the strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong in nearly two decades.

"Prepare for the worst," Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents.

That warning came after Mangkhut's devastating march through the northern Philippines, where the storm made landfall Saturday on Luzon island with sustained winds of 205 kilometres per hour and gusts of 255kph.

Police Superintendent Pelita Tacio said 34 villagers had died and 36 remained missing in landslides in two villages in Itogon town in the northern Philippine mountain province of Benguet.

Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan told The Associated Press by phone that at the height of the typhoon's onslaught Saturday afternoon, dozens of people, mostly miners and their families, rushed into an old three-story building in the village of Ucab.

The building — a former mining bunkhouse that had been transformed into a chapel — was obliterated when part of a mountain slope collapsed. Three villagers who managed to escape told authorities what happened.

"They thought they were really safe there," the mayor said. He expressed sadness that the villagers, many of them poor, had few options to survive in a region where big corporations have profited immensely from gold mines.

Rescuers were scrambling to pull out the body of a victim from the mound of mud and rocks in Ucab before Tacio, the police official, left the area Sunday.

"I could hear villagers wailing in their homes near the site of the accident," Tacio said.

The tragedy came as Florence, another major storm, unleashed catastrophic flooding across the Carolinas in the United States, where more than 30 inches of rain since Friday threatened a deluge of historic proportions as the storm slowly crawled inland from the coast. Muddy river waters swamped entire communities and the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina, was cut off by the flood waters.

In China, meanwhile, Mangkhut continued its destructive path, with Hong Kong bracing for a storm that could be the strongest to hit the city since Typhoon York in 1999.

A video posted online by residents showed the top corner of an old building break and fall off, while in another video, a tall building swayed as strong winds blew.

The storm shattered glass windows on commercial skyscrapers in Hong Kong, sending sheets of paper pouring out of the buildings, fluttering and spiralling as they headed for the debris-strewn ground, according to several videos posted on social media.

Mangkhut also felled trees, tore bamboo scaffolding off buildings under construction and flooded some areas of Hong Kong with waist-high waters, according to the South China Morning Post.

The paper said the heavy rains brought storm surges of 3 metres around Hong Kong.

The storm made landfall in the Guangdong city of Taishan at 5 p.m., packing wind speeds of 162 kilometres per hour. State television broadcaster CGTN reported that surging waves flooded a seaside hotel in the city of Shenzhen.

In Macau, next door to Hong Kong, casinos were ordered to close from 11pm Saturday, the first time such action was taken in the city, the South China Morning Post reported. In the city's inner harbour district, the water level reached 1.5 metres on Sunday and was expected to rise further. The area was one of the most affected by floods from Typhoon Hato, which left 10 people dead last year.

Authorities in southern China issued a red alert, the most severe warning, as the national meteorological centre said the densely populated region would face a "severe test caused by wind and rain" and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific said all of its flights would be cancelled between 2:30 a.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday. The city of Shenzhen also cancelled all flights between Sunday and early Monday morning. Hainan Airlines cancelled 234 flights in the cities of Haikou, Sanya, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai scheduled over the weekend.

All high-speed and some normal rail services in Guangdong and Hainan provinces were also halted, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Co. said.

In the Philippines, rescuers for the Itogon landslide were hampered by rain and mud. The search and rescue operation was suspended at nightfall and was to resume at daybreak Monday, said Palangdan, the mayor. Police and their vehicles could not immediately reach the landslide-hit area because the ground was unstable and soaked from the heavy rains, regional police chief Rolando Nana told the ABS-CBN TV network.

Overall, at least 64 people have died in typhoon-related incidents in the northern Philippines, mostly from landslides and collapsed houses, according to the national police. Forty-five other people were missing and 33 were injured in the storm.

The hardest-hit area was Benguet province, where 38 people died, mostly in the two landslides in Itogon, and 37 are missing, the police said.

Still, the Philippines appeared to have been spared the high number of casualties many had feared. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines. A massive evacuation of about 87,000 people from high-risk areas helped lessen potential casualties, officials said.

The typhoon struck at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in the Philippines' northern breadbasket, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said.

Strong wind caused by Typhoon Mangkhut push waves up onto the waterfront of Victoria Habour Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Hong Kong and southern China hunkered down as strong winds and heavy rain from Typhoon Mangkhut lash the densely populated coast. The biggest storm of the year left at least 28 dead from landslides and drownings as it sliced through the northern Philippines. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. Source: Associated Press


Air NZ scraps flights in and out of Queenstown as region deals with snow blast

Air New Zealand has cancelled multiple flights in and out of Queenstown today following an unusually robust spring snowfall overnight that also closed schools, snarled roads and caused power outages.

And more flight disruption is likely throughout the day, the airline said.

"Customers are strongly recommended to consider deferring non-urgent travel today," Air New Zealand advised in a statement.

Arrowtown woke up to a thick blanket of snow as winter had one last blast for Otago. Source: 1 NEWS

The company said it will offer additional ticket flexibility to any customers opting to cancel plans, even if their flights are still scheduled.

Flight updates can be viewed here.

Flight lands at Queenstown Airport. Source: 1 NEWS

A late wintery blast has blanketed the deep south with snow, forcing travel disruption. Source: 1 NEWS

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Photo Gallery: Winter has final sting in its tail, blasts Queenstown region with snow

Central Otago woke up to an early spring snow dump this morning, with the white stuff visible across the Wakatipu Basin.

Glenorchy has seen heavy snow, while flurries are light in Queenstown and on the Lindis Pass.

Queenstown. Source: Thomas Martin

Vision captured by 1 NEWS in Arrowtown shows a heavy blanket of snow. 

Arrowtown saw an early spring snowfall overnight, 17 September 2018. Source: Sophia Purdon

Nineteen flights, both domestic and international, have been cancelled at Queenstown Airport, although it remains open. 

Source: James Penwell

All schools in the Wakatipu Basin are closed. 

Crown Range Source: NZTA

Power outages caused by snow-loaded tree branches have been reported in Glenorchy, Te Anau, Queenstown, Franktown, Arrowtown and Dalefield.

Arrowtown. Source: Jesse Van Grinsven

"Power will be restored as quickly as is safely possible but extreme conditions are hampering our response," an Aurora Energy spokesperson said.

Bridesdale Queenstown. Source: Kate Tonks

A spokesperson from Metservice has told 1 NEWS of heavy snow fall in the Crown Ranges, with many campervans being snowed in.

Camper vans in Te Anau. Source: MetService

Arrowtown. Source: Jess Van Grinsven

Cardrona Ski Field has had 35 centimetres of snow this morning and counting. However, graders have been unable to clear the road in time for opening today. 

Usually snow is a good thing for a ski field, but it couldn’t clear the roads fast enough to open this morning. Source: 1 NEWS

An early spring dump of snow fell on Te Anau overnight, 17 September 2018. Source: Alana Pullar

"Where the snow hasn't fallen, water has. A lot of it," the Queenstown Lakes District Council warned this morning.

"We've got roads affected by surface water from all the rain so watch out for flooding and ponding wherever you're headed today."

Te Anau. Source: Phillip Robertson

Trust Power is reporting an outage in Frankton as a result of the weather. 

Arrowtown saw an early spring snowfall overnight, 17 September 2018. Source: Sophia Purdon

Motorists heading over the Crown Range today will need to bring chains with them.

Images from viewers also show thick coats of snow in Arrowtown and Te Anau.

Snow on the Crown Range. Source: NZTA

SH94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound is closed due to a high avalanche risk. 

The road will be closed for some time due to snow and fallen trees.

Arrowtown saw an early spring snowfall overnight, 17 September 2018. Source: Sophia Purdon

Do you have a photo or video of today's snow? Send it to news@tvnz.co.nz.

In many places power was cut, schools were closed and flights cancelled. Source: 1 NEWS


At least five people dead as tropical storm Florence spreads to South Carolina

Blowing ashore with howling 155 km/h winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. At least five people were killed.

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 30 centimetres to 1 metre as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

As 645-kilometre-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, while many of their neighbours awaited help. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.

Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the US electrical grid.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds across the state.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending," Cooper said. Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3 metres, he said.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. Also, a 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said, and the governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth," he said.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakened to 112 km/h as it moved forward at 6km/h about 25 kilometres north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind. Several places already had more than 40 centimetres of rain, and Oriental, North Carolina got more than 50 centimetres in just a few hours.

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.

The flooding soon spread into South Carolina. The National Hurricane Centre in Miami says the core of Florence was located at 11pm Friday about 20 kilometres west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.

Top sustained winds are now about 100 km/h and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 7 km/h — a track that is expected to continue through early Saturday.

Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina ahead.

As Florence moves further inland over the coming days, the storm is expected to gradually weaken. Forecasters say it could become a depression by Saturday night.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, however, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared last year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at nearly 3,000.

The National Hurricane Centre said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 68 trillion litres of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with nearly 10 centimetres of water, he calculated.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 36 trillion litres, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 25 centimetres.

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.

A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at nearly 170km/h, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Nationwide, airlines cancelled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the city tweeted around 2am. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU."

Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighbourhood during Florence's assault.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard, that trying to get out we got thrown into trailers. We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees," said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later cancelled. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs, and the experience left her shaken.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me," she said. "We might leave."

The storm dropped 10 to 18 inches of rain along the North Carolina coast. Source: Associated Press