Hong Kong takes cover as Typhoon Saola approaches

HONG KONG, Sept. 1 (Reuters) – Hong Kong braced for the arrival of Super Typhoon Saola on Friday as authorities raised the strong wind signal to 8, bringing the city to a standstill with most businesses, schools and the stock exchange closed.

Three tropical cyclones have formed in the northwestern Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, with Saola and Haikui already classified as typhoons, while Kirogi, which is furthest from land, is still classified as a tropical storm, according to meteorologists.

Typhoon Saola has wind speeds of more than 200 kilometers per hour (125 mph) and will move toward the eastern coast of Guangdong, a neighboring province on the Chinese mainland. This could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong province since 1949, Chinese authorities said Thursday, in its highest typhoon warning.

The city’s weather observatory said Typhoon Saola is expected to approach Hong Kong on Friday heading into Saturday morning, causing weather conditions to deteriorate rapidly.

The Chinese National Meteorological Center said the typhoon may make landfall on Friday evening or Saturday morning as a severe typhoon along the coast of Huidong to Taishan in Guangdong, while maintaining the highest red typhoon warning.

The Hong Kong Observatory said it would consider the need to issue louder typhoon warning signals later on Friday.

Hong Kong has five typhoon ratings, 1, 3, 8, 9 and 10, which is the strongest sign of a typhoon.

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The government said all schools in Hong Kong will close on Friday, even though it is the first day of term for many. Nearby cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou also closed schools.

Crowds thronged fresh food markets in Hong Kong’s downtown Wan Chai district on Thursday afternoon with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long lines of people to stock up before the storm.

The Hong Kong Observatory said it expects heavy rain and violent winds while water levels in the city are expected to “rise significantly” until Saturday, with serious flooding possible.

The city’s main airline, Cathay Pacific, said all flights to and from Hong Kong between 2pm (0600 GMT) on Friday and 10am (0200 GMT) on Saturday had been cancelled.

She added that further flight delays and cancellations may be needed based on the hurricane’s path on Saturday morning.

The Macau Weather Observatory said it would raise its wind warning level to level 8 between 1pm and 3pm on Friday. She said she expects it to be raised to Hurricane Signal No. 10 early 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.

Farah Master Report; (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Bernard Orr, Ryan Wu and Ethan Wang in Beijing – Preparing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Lincoln Feast and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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