1874 Hong Kong Typhoon

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(甲戌風災 : 清朝同治十三年,農曆八月十二日)

Newspaper report from Hong Kong Daily Press[edit]

A terrific typhoon story from Hong Kong Daily Press was subsequently quoted in Singapore Straits Times on its October 10 front page. The typhoon hit Hong Kong during the 22nd (Tuesday) night and the 23rd (Wednesday) morning of September in 1874, with no less than 2,000 people recorded in casualty. However, around 5,000 people lost their life in Macau, which was the worst storm to hit Macau.

The Colony was besieged in low pressure, as typical in the eye of the typhoon. From 8 pm, winds were in rage and howling with ear-deafening sounds, alongside the painful cries of many people who became homeless. The typhoon increased steadily up to 2:15 am in the morning.

Some adventurers went out to the Praya at 11 pm and only found themselves knee deep in the water and risked their lives being washed away by the tidal wave hitting ashore. They were forced to retreat by 1 am after midnight as the winds were said to escalate to a high time. East Point (Causeway Bay) recorded 4 feet high water level above its average. Many stores and shops, even far away from the Praya waterfront, were flooded seriously with water damage.

The typhoon was said to be weakening after 3 am, yet the two-hour strike had created so much injury to the Colony and taken away many pitiful lives. Telegraphic communication was interrupted, news from the Hong Kong island was cut off for a while. The town had sustained great loss, its roads were deserted with debris, house roofs were ruined, windows shattered and walls fallen, cables and gas pipes were blown away and giaganic trees were thrown uprooted.

Most if not all 37 ships in port were suffering from damage when hundreds of fishing junks and sampans were either wrecked or severely broken up in spite of their seeking shelter at bay. That was a time Hong Kong did not have its own weather observatory. Even many people were expecting the storm from a certain direction, some were not attentive and caught off guard in either shipwrecks or house collapsing because of a few false typhoon alerts voiced out earlier in the year.

In the next morning, the Praya scene from West to East was heart saddening, one could easily find boat capsized corpses floating and drifting on the water surface and some dead bodies even washed ashore by the high tides.

Eyewitness[edit]

Ernest John Eitel, about one of Hong Kong's worst typhoons struck in 1874;

From his accounts, Eitel described Hong Kong being much devastated after this terrific strike from the 1874 typhoon. Many of the European and Chinese houses were ruined and became roofless; big trees were unrooted....and corpses were found from the ruins and started surfacing on waterfront from the wreckships.

A recount by a first-time visitor[edit]

Mrs. Mary Crawford Fraser or better known as Mrs Hugh Fraser, who came across this unnamed typhoon in Hong Kong in 1874; from her journal

Mrs Hugh Fraser as a new bride of a British diplomat left Italy and travelling with her husband on board one P &O 8,000-ton steamer for Peking on August 21, 1874. The couple was approaching Hong Kong two days ahead of the September typhoon, which gave her a terrible fright. She reported on her journal that the sky was dark as ink, the sea was oily and of the same colour, rough and wavy. The barometer had its needle moving rigorously in its convulsions. Her vessel had to put to stop outside Hong Kong harbour to let the typhoon past. She saw a massive of wreckage among which dead bodies got to the surface. An P&O ship agent went on board and quoting that the typhoon took two hours to wrack Hong Kong to its foundation, sinking many foreign ships in anchor, drowning many Chinese families who lived on the fishing boats or sampans. It was said to be one of the worst typhoon in the past 50 years that hit Hong Kong.

When Mrs Hugh Fraser went ashore, she reported that the waterfront was nearly swept away, hardly found a tree in the Botanical Gardens left well standing, and many buildings were found roofless and in ruins. The people were busily burying the dead in haste for the heat was intense and a big worry of any outbreak of contagious disease. The low pressure atmosphere made the place like a hugh burial chamber.

Pictures[edit]

A review of natural disasters of the past (p54-141). Courtesy. Hong Kong Museum of History. The typhoon on 22 September 1874. (photos on pp. 65, 67, 84, 86 and 94)

1874 Typhoon at Hong Kong | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

"The impact of the typhoon of September 1874 in Hong Kong. The Basel mission house."

References[edit]

The Straits Times, 10 October 1874, Page 1 : TERRIFIC TYPHOON IN HONGKONG. Source: http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article/straitstimes18741010.2.23.aspx

Eitel, Ernest John (1895). Europe in China: the history of Hongkong from the beginning to the year 1882. London: Luzac & Co.

Mrs Hugh Fraser, (1911) A Diplomat's Wife in Many Lands. Hutchison & Co.: London. Vol 2, Chapter XXIII, Two weddings and a voyage to the East : in the wake of a typhoon, p397-400.