Hong Kong braces itself as Super Typhoon Saola approaches city

Source: Logfret Hong Kong; The Straits Times; Hong Kong Observatory; South China Morning Post
Date: 1st September 2023

Hong Kong shut down the city, including its US$5 trillion (S$6.75 trillion) stock market, on Friday as Super Typhoon Saola approaches after pummeling the northern Philippines.

The typhoon was about 450km east-south-east of Hong Kong at 7am local time and will be closest to the city on Friday and Saturday, said the city’s observatory on Thursday. The storm is currently packing winds of 210kmh, according to its website.

Saola has the potential to be the strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong since Mangkhut battered the city five years ago, leaving roads blocked, buildings damaged and low-lying areas flooded.

Hong Kong raised its second-lowest storm signal T3 at 5 p.m. on Thursday and issued the Gale or Storm Signal No. 8 between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Local weather is expected to deteriorate significantly, with heavy squally showers and violent winds, during the day. That signal would effectively shutter the city as offices and schools close and public transport is stopped.

If the signals go up to 10, it means hurricane-force winds reaching a sustained speed of 118kmh are affecting the city. There have been 16 maximum-level storms in Hong Kong since records began in 1946.

Cathay Pacific Airways expects to suspend flights starting from Friday afternoon through Saturday morning, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The airline expects significant disruptions at Hong Kong International Airport due to Saola, and is working to keep aircraft out of the city for a period of time, according to information seen by Bloomberg.

Cathay could not be immediately reached for comment.

The typhoon is forecast to move west-north-west at about 10kmh across the north-eastern part of the South China Sea and towards the coast of eastern Guangdong, the observatory said. There will be heavy squally showers and a storm surge to coastal low-lying areas, it said.

Saola earlier flooded nearly 200 towns in the Philippines and forced some 50,000 people to flee to safer grounds. Taiwan lifted a land warning on Wednesday night while its sea warning remains, according to a statement from the island’s Central Weather Bureau.

China is also set to be affected by another typhoon nearer Shanghai, called Haikui. The country has activated a Level 4 emergency response for floods in six provincial-level regions, including Guangdong and Shanghai, Xinhua reported on Wednesday. Haikui is forecast to affect the East China Sea around Sunday, it said.

China has been hit by bouts of extreme weather this summer which have caused flooding in the north that left dozens dead.

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