SCMP: Thousands stranded by typhoon

‘Worst ever chaos’ at airport as 559 flights scrapped, delayed or diverted amid winds reaching 200km/h

More than 3,000 passengers were stranded by Typhoon Prapiroon at Chek Lap Kok last night in what an airline executive said could be the worst disruption since the airport opened in 1998.

Even though only the No 3 signal was hoisted, raging southeasterly winds stirred up by the storm churning 280km to the southwest, created conditions too hazardous for takeoff or landing.

By 11.30pm, about 70 per cent of 826 flights scheduled had been affected, with 158 delayed, 303 cancelled and 98 diverted to nearby cities. There were still more than 2,500 passengers stranded at the airport at this time. Forty more flights were expected to be affected. On July 7, 2001, 97 per cent of 551 scheduled flights were affected by Typhoon Utor, when the No8 signal was hoisted.

Dragonair, China Airlines and Eva Airways cancelled all afternoon flights to and from Hong Kong yesterday, while Cathay Pacific cancelled all flights till 9am today.

Hong Kong residents were offered HK$500 and sent home but international travellers had to scramble for scarce hotel rooms or spend the night at the airport.

“The airlines are so irresponsible. We are stranded here the whole day and they said they could not arrange a hotel for us,” said a woman giving her name as Emily, a Cathay Pacific passenger who should have been in Denpasar on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali by noon. Tired passengers resting on the floor could be seen in almost every corner of the airport, she said. “We are only offered water, snacks and blankets.”

Cathay’s general manager (corporate communications) Alan Wong Ka-lun said the number stranded was huge as most airlines were affected. “I think it is the first time that such a situation has emerged at Chek Lap Kok since its opening,” he said.

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