Hong Kong CNN –
Schools and businesses closed on Friday while hundreds of flights were canceled in Hong Kong and other parts of southern China as Typhoon Saola swept close to the coast, bringing strong winds and heavy rain in what could be the region’s strongest storm in five years .
It had been a super typhoon on Thursday but was downgraded to typhoon status on Friday – but is still equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 220 kilometers per hour (140 miles per hour).
The storm had previously hit parts of the northeastern Philippines.
Three people were injured and hospitalized in Hong Kong, according to the city’s information services department. The Interior Ministry opened dozens of emergency shelters. There have been seven cases of flooding, but no landslides have been reported so far.
The city’s residents began preparing for the approaching typhoon on Thursday, with many flocking to supermarkets and stores to stock up on food and essential goods.
Strong winds began to increase Friday afternoon, with the storm expected to make its closest approach to the city and China’s southern Guangdong province overnight and into Saturday morning.
However, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said the center of the storm is likely to remain offshore rather than moving over land and will weaken as it approaches a Category 2 hurricane.
The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) issued a T10 storm warning signal on September 30 The highest storm warning level applies on Friday. Schools and most businesses were closed on what should have been the first day of the school year for most institutions.
The eyewall of Saola – the ring of strongest winds surrounding the calm eye of the hurricane – is now moving over the city, HKO said, adding that “hurricane-force winds are affecting the eastern part of Hong Kong.”
“Saola will be bypassed about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Hong Kong Observatory in the next few hours,” HKO added.
The observatory warned that the storm would continue to bring heavy showers and strong winds, causing storm surges with rising waters in low-lying coastal areas. A T10 warning was last issued in 2018 for Typhoon Mangkhut, which killed 10 people in neighboring Macau and caused significant damage in Hong Kong.
The storm has also caused widespread disruption to air travel; Hong Kong had canceled 366 flights and delayed 40 others as of Friday morning, according to the city’s airport authority. Ahead of the typhoon, Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific suspended all flights to and from the city from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.
Authorities in mainland China also issued a typhoon red warning, the highest level in a four-level alert system, as Saola approached Guangdong.
Shenzhen, a high-tech hub bordering Hong Kong, suspended all classes, works, shops, markets and transportation on Friday. The international airport suspended all flights as of Friday noon.
The city has urged its 13 million residents to stay at home and has opened emergency shelters for those in need of refuge.
Nearly 4,000 train services in Guangdong were suspended between Thursday and Sunday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Tropical cyclones and typhoons hit Hong Kong several times a year. Three T8 warnings were issued in 2022, the city’s third-highest warning. and was last issued for Typhoon Talim in July, according to HKO.
But the city has generally had a good track record of weathering direct hits with low casualties over the past few decades.