Hong Kong shuts down in preparation for powerful typhoon

August 22, 2017 - 11:23 pm

HONG KONG (AP) — A powerful typhoon forced offices and schools to close and canceled hundreds of flights in Hong Kong, where residents were hunkering down as the storm brushes past.

Severe Typhoon Hato was about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Hong Kong on Wednesday morning and moving toward mainland China's Pearl River Delta.

Weather authorities raised the No. 10 hurricane signal, the highest level, for the first time in five years. Hato was packing maximum sustained winds of 165 kilometers (103 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 192 kph (119 mph).

The warning forced businesses, government offices, schools and courts to shut and the stock market to suspend trading, leaving the Asian financial center's normally bustling streets eerily quiet. Airlines canceled 420 flights and ferry operators halted services to the nearby Chinese gambling center of Macau and cities in the delta.

A direct hit on Hong Kong was not expected, but outlying islands were experiencing winds of 141 kph (87 mph). The Hong Kong Observatory warned residents to be prepared for destructive winds, possible flooding and landslip, and advised people to stay away from low-lying areas because storm surges could cause severe flooding.

Hato was expected to skirt south of Hong Kong and make landfall on China's Guangdong province. Thousands of people were evacuated from parts of the mainland coast ahead of the storm's arrival, the official Xinhua news service reported.

Train services were canceled, fishing boats returned to harbor and more than 4,000 fish farmers and their families came to shore, Xinhua said. Waves up to 10 meters (33 feet) high were expected in the South China Sea, the agency said.

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