Hawkins Investigates Damages in the Wake of Typhoon Mangkhut

On 15 September 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut struck the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Typhoon Mangkhut was also the strongest typhoon to strike Hong Kong since Typhoon Ellen in 1983, and as of this month, Mangkhut was 

deemed the strongest tropical cyclone of 2018.

Forensic investigators working in Hawkins’ Hong Kong Office have captured photographs of the flooding in both coastal and low-lying areas. It is estimated that 47,000 trees were knocked over during the strong winds of approximately 180 kilometres per hour. The storm’s winds also caused swaying of high‑rise buildings, shattering of many glass windows, and structural collapses. A project under construction in Tai Kok Tsui collapsed onto an adjacent building, and the curtain walls of the Harbour Grand Kowloon were blown out.

Hong Kong, however, is a highly-populated city which is largely built upwards in many high-rise type buildings, and during such a powerful storm, low areas are not the only parts of a structure at risk. 

Dr Sophie Parsons, a materials engineer at Hawkins’ Hong Kong office, explains that, “as a result, when typhoons hit, they tend to flood the machine rooms at the top of the high‑rises. These are the rooms that contain motorised hoists that pull the lifts up and down. Unfortunately, these motorised hoists have holes in them, so the storm water bursts into the machine rooms and cascades down the lift shafts.”

Hawkins has been instructed to investigate the exact points through which water can enter during a storm, as well as their resulting effects on several such lifts. Both Dr Parsons, and Hawkins’ Dr Chun Chan, have been inspecting lift shafts after Typhoon Mangkhut, and have found failures such as water‑damaged control panels (which are rendered 

unable to send signals to lift cars), and corroded ropes with degraded or swollen fibre cores. When these ropes lose integrity, they are no longer safe for lift operation, and have to be replaced. “Not bad if you live on the 1st floor,” says Dr Parsons, “but a bit of nightmare if you live on the 25th floor - or the 50th.” It is also not unusual for new ropes to cost around £30,000 each in a twenty-floor high-rise.

Hawkins knows how important it is for forensic engineers to assess the causes of damage rapidly after a storm, so that the people living in the affected buildings can both access, and feel safe in, their homes as soon as possible. Please contact us if you have any enquiries about storm damage as a result of Typhoon Mangkhut, or any other severe weather event in future.
 

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