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article imageSuper typhoon will test world's longest bridge in South China Sea

By Karen Graham     Sep 15, 2018 in World
The structural safety of the $20 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge could be put to the test by Super Typhoon Mangkhut, predicted to be the most powerful in Hong Kong’s history, an engineering expert has warned.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut roared over the island of Luzon, the breadbasket of the Philippines Saturday, packing winds of more than 185 kph (115 mph) and leaving at least 14 people dead, reports the BBC.
After losing some of its wind speed, Mangkhut has been downgraded to the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. The storm - known locally as Ompong - has a cloud diameter of about 900 kilometers (o.6 miles) and is heading west at about 30 kph (19 mph).
Mangkhut is setting its sites on Hong Kong, directly to the West. Also in the typhoon's path is the world's longest sea-crossing bridge, the 34 miles (55 kilometers) long Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in the South China Sea. The bridge is a bridge-tunnel system, which consists of a series of three cable-stayed bridges and one undersea tunnel, as well as three artificial islands.
The $20 billion bridge is set to open later this year and was built to withstand winds up to 125 mph (201 kph) and stay standing even after a magnitude-8.1 earthquake.
In April, reports Quartz, some of the interlocking concrete blocks, known as dolosse, placed around the edges of an artificial island which connects the Hong Kong bridge section to a tunnel in mainland China waters – sparked safety fears as they appeared to have drifted, reports the South China Morning Post.
However, the bridge authority later clarified the blocks were there to protect the artificial island from "breaking waves," and were designed to be submerged in a “random manner” to avoid exerting too much pressure on the undersea tunnel.
Structural engineer Ngai Hok-yan says how well the bridge will fare comes down to wind direction and how high waves will get near the artificial islands closest to Macau and in mainland waters. "If the waves are higher than 13 feet, then there is a chance the protective blocks will be washed away, and very quickly," Ngai notes.
“Without the protection of the dolosse, the worst-case scenario would see the undersea tunnel detach from the artificial island and float above the sea, and also the collapse of the island,” he added.
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