Schools were shut and hundreds of flights cancelled in Hong Kong on Friday as Super Typhoon Saola moved closer to southern China’s Guangdong province.
Authorities posted a strong storm warning that led to businesses and the local stock exchange closing.
Three tropical cyclones have formed in the northwest Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, with Saola and Haikui already labelled typhoons, while Kirogi, the most distant from land, still classified as a tropical storm, according to weather forecasters.
Saola is packing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph) and is moving towards the coast of eastern Guangdong, the province which encompasses Hong Kong. It could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong since 1949, Chinese authorities said on Thursday as they issued their highest typhoon warning.
Saola is expected to make landfall late on Friday night or Saturday morning as a severe typhoon along the coast from Huidong to Taishan in Guangdong, China’s National Meteorological Centre said. Hong Kong and neighbouring Macau lie in the centre of that coastline.
Weather conditions will deteriorate rapidly as the typhoon makes landfall, the Hong Kong observatory said, adding it would consider the need to issue higher cyclone warning signals between 6pm and 10pm on Friday.
Serious flooding is expected with water levels in some areas reaching around 3 metres (10 feet) higher than the normal tide level.
Hong Kong has five rankings for typhoons, 1, 3, 8, 9 and the highest 10, and currently has Signal 8 in force.
All schools in Hong Kong were closed on Friday, despite being the first day of term for many, the government said.
“We can see that the eye of the typhoon will pass very close to Hong Kong. I’m a bit concerned and hope it won’t cause too many casualties,” said Wai Yi, 58, in the city’s eastern Heung Fa Chuen area.
Nearby cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou also closed schools, while tech hub Shenzhen went a step further, suspending work, businesses and financial markets from Friday afternoon.
Crowds stock up on food before storm comes
In Hong Kong on Thursday, crowds were seen jostling at fresh food markets in downtown Wan Chai district with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long queues with people stocking up ahead of the storm.
The city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said all flights in and out of Hong Kong between 2pm (0600 GMT) on Friday and 10am (0200 GMT) on Saturday have been cancelled.
Further flight delays and cancellations may be required based on the typhoon’s path on Saturday morning, it said.
By 10:55am (0255 GMT) Friday, Zhuhai and Shenzhen airports had cancelled hundreds of flights, data from Flight Master showed.
Guangdong authorities suspended all trains in and out of the province from 8pm (1200 GMT) Friday to 6pm (1000 GMT) Saturday.
Zhuhai-Macau Bridge shut
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that connects the three cities will be closed from 3:30pm (0730 GMT) on Friday to ensure of transport safety, the local Southern Metropolis Daily reported, without giving a date for opening of the bridge.
Macau’s Weather Observatory said it would raise its wind warning level to Signal 8 by 2pm on Friday. It said it could raise it to the highest Signal 10 early on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Haikui is approaching Taiwan and expected to make landfall on the northern part of the island on Sunday before heading towards the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau.
The Taishan Nuclear Power plant in Guangdong said on its official Wechat account it had halted outdoor operations and transferred vulnerable materials from the plant. Emergency staff are on duty and all personnel and facilities at the base are safe, it said.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard
NOTE: This report was updated on Sept 1, 2023 as further details came to hand.