1906 Hong Kong typhoon
On September 18 1906, a typhoon with a tsunami killed an estimated 10,000 persons in Hong Kong. The 1906 typhoon sank 2,413 Chinese craft and 141 European. The Hong Kong Observatory recorded the 1906 typhoon as having a velocity of 24 miles per hour (39 km/h) when the eye of the typhoon was 30 nautical miles (56 km) distant, and it had a wind force of 6 Bft taken as the limit, about 100 miles (160 km) in diameter.
Sailing Packet Hitchcock
My grandfather took this picture of the aftermath of the 1906 Hong Kong typhoon that shows the Sailing Packet Hitchcock half sunk against the sea wall of 14 Kowloon Wharf.
The Hitchcock was a three-masted schooner – a skysail yarder – that was launched on 13 October 1883 in Bath, Maine (USA). Chiefly built for California trade, her original owner was J F Chapman of New York.
Augustine Frost, my grandfather, had been stationed in Tientsin before the typhoon struck.
Life saving actions
The governor praised the actions of many European and Chinese citizens in carrying out life-saving rescues and agreed to develop an early warning system for the Hong Kong Observatory for future typhoon alerts. At that time, the governor reported that emergency relief funds of HK$10,000 had been received from overseas Chinese living in San Francisco. In addition, local Chinese in the colony had made donations of HK$80,000 within just a few days of the calamity, partially through the efforts of the Tung Wah Hospitals Group, Po Leung Kuk, and the District Watchmen Committee.
Loss of life due to the typhoon
Initial contemporary reports estimated a loss of life of ‘about 10,000’, and later reports suggest it was 16,000, or ‘5% of the 320,000-strong population in Hong Kong at that time’.
The British military authority approved a team of 150 people to help the colonial government clear up the wreckage in the port. Meanwhile, the 1906 typhoon had exerted a great blow and delay to the Hong Kong cargo shipping business, an estimated 2,983 fishing boats and 670 ocean-going vessels were broken up and the wharf and warehouse facilities damaged, suffering from a million dollar loss.
A more recent analysis showed that due to the nature of this ‘midget typhoon’ forewarning was not possible at that time.