1874 Hong Kong Typhoon
The 1874 Hong Kong Typhoon hit Hong Kong during the night of Tuesday 22 September and the morning of Wednesday 23 September, 1874.
Newspaper report from Hong Kong Daily Press
A report of a terrific typhoon in the Hong Kong Daily Press was subsequently quoted on the front page of the Singapore Straits Times on 10 October. The typhoon hit Hong Kong during the night of Tuesday 22 September and the morning of Wednesday 23 September, 1874, with no less than 2,000 people recorded as being injured. However, around 5,000 people lost their lives in Macau, making the typhoon the worst storm to hit Macau.
The Colony experienced a period of low pressure, as typical in the eye of a 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 in strength steadily up to 2:15 am in the morning.
Some adventurers went out to the Praya at 11pm and found themselves knee deep in the water and risked being washed away by the tidal waves hitting the shore. They were forced to retreat by 1am as the winds were reaching a new high. The East Point on Causeway Bay recorded a water level 4 feet above its average. Many stores and shops, even far away from the Praya waterfront, were flooded and water damaged.
The typhoon began weakening after 3 am, yet it's two-hour impact had injuried and killed many in the Colony. Telegraphic communication was interrupted and communication with Hong Kong island was cut for a while. The town had sustained great loss, its roads were deserted and strewn with debris, house roofs were ruined, windows shattered and walls fallen, cables and gas pipes were blown away and trees were uprooted.
Most of the 37 ships in port were damaged and hundreds of fishing junks and sampans were either wrecked or broken up despite having sought shelter in the bay. At this time Hong Kong did not have its own weather observatory and many people were expecting the storm from a different direction, while others were caught off guard and either shipwrecked or lost their homes. A few false typhoon alerts had been announced 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.
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.
An account by a first-time visitor
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.
- "TERRIFIC TYPHOON IN HONGKONG", The Straits Times, 10 October 1874, Page 1
- 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.
- 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."
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