HONG KONG, Sept. 1 (Reuters) – Hundreds of flights were canceled in China’s Guangdong province and Hong Kong as powerful Typhoon Saola approached the mainland on Friday, forcing authorities to raise the storm warning level and close businesses, schools and financial markets.
Three tropical cyclones formed in the northwest Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, with Saola and Haikoi already classified as typhoons, while Kiruji, the furthest from land, still classified as a tropical storm, according to meteorologists.
Typhoon Saola, carrying winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour, was heading towards the coast of the eastern province of Guangdong, which includes Hong Kong. This could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong Province since 1949, Chinese authorities said Thursday, in their highest typhoon warning.
Saola may make landfall Friday evening or Saturday morning as a severe typhoon along the coast from Huidong to Taishan in Guangdong, the China National Meteorological Center said, which maintained the highest red warning for a typhoon. Neighboring Hong Kong and Macao lie in the middle of this coastline.
The Hong Kong Observatory said weather conditions could deteriorate rapidly as the typhoon makes landfall, adding that it will study the need to issue higher warning signals than typhoons later on Friday.
Hong Kong has five typhoon ratings, 1, 3, 8, 9 and top 10, and currently has a signal 8 in effect.
The government said all schools in Hong Kong will close on Friday, even though it is the first day of school for many.
Neighboring cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou also closed schools, while technology hub Shenzhen went further, halting work, businesses and financial markets from Friday afternoon.
In Hong Kong, crowds were seen stampeding Thursday at fresh food markets in the city’s downtown Wan Chai district, with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long lines of people to stock up before the storm.
The Hong Kong Observatory said it was expecting heavy rains and strong winds while “the water level in the city is expected to rise significantly” through Saturday, with the possibility of serious flooding.
The city’s main carrier, Cathay Pacific, said all flights to and from Hong Kong between 2pm (0600GMT) on Friday and 10am (0200GMT) on Saturday had been cancelled.
It added that more delays and cancellations of flights may be needed based on the hurricane’s path on Saturday morning.
Data from Flightmaster showed that by 10:55 am (0255 GMT) on Friday, Zhuhai and Shenzhen airports had canceled hundreds of flights.
Guangdong authorities have suspended all trains to and from the province from 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) Friday to 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) Saturday.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge linking the three cities will be closed from 3:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) on Friday to ensure transportation safety, according to local newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily, without specifying a date for the opening of the bridge.
The Macau Weather Observatory said it will raise the wind warning level to signal 8 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday. She expects to raise it to the top 10 signal early on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Haikui is approaching Taiwan and is expected to make landfall in the northern part of the island on Sunday before heading toward the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, according to Taiwan’s Central Meteorological Bureau.
(Reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong and Bernard Orr, Ryan Wu and Ethan Wang in Beijing – Reporting by Mohamed for The Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Lincoln Feist and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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