Hong Kong and China’s southeastern coastline was bracing itself for one of the strongest typhoons recorded in the last 74 years.
China issued its highest typhoon warning on Thursday as Super Typhoon Saola, packing winds of more than 200kph (125mph), moved landwards, threatening Hong Kong and other major manufacturing hubs in nearby Guangdong province.
Chinese forecasters issued a typhoon red warning at 6am and China’s National Meteorological Centre said Saola will move northwest across the South China Sea at a speed of about 10kph (6mph), gradually approaching the coast of Guangdong, then slowly weaken in intensity. Wind speeds had been clocked at 209kph (130mph).
Saola will make landfall along the coast somewhere from Huilai County in Guangdong to Hong Kong on the afternoon to the night of September 1, the centre said, adding with its forecasted intensity, it could be among the five strongest typhoons to land in Guangdong since 1949.
Hong Kong’s government said the city would raise its strong wind signal to No8 between 2am and 5am on Friday, bringing the city to an effective standstill with most businesses and the stock exchange shut.
All schools will be closed on Friday, despite being the first day of term for many, the government said.
Crowds jostled at fresh food markets in the city’s downtown Wan Chai district on Thursday afternoon with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long queues with people stocking up ahead of the storm.
Hong Kong’s Observatory said it expects heavy rain and violent winds while the city’s water level is expected to “rise appreciably” until Saturday with potential serious flooding.
Schools, Airport Closed
As Saola approached, Guangdong’s Shenzhen city said it would upgrade the typhoon warning level to yellow – the second lowest – at 6pm on Thursday, and suspend classes at nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.
Shenzhen’s Baoan Airport had suspended all flights from midday Friday and said it would resume them as soon as it was safe to do so.
China Southern Power Grid said it is stepping up inspection of equipment and strengthening measures to prevent water leakage in basement power rooms.
China Railway has suspended several major train lines and Shanghai halted trains heading to Guangdong, according to local media.
Until 8am (0000 GMT) Friday there will be heavy rainfall in parts of Fujian and areas of Guangdong, weather officials said. Downpours could be 100-220mm (3.9in to 8.7in) in some areas.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara