Hong Kong braced for the arrival of super typhoon Saola on Friday as authorities raised the strong wind signal to No.8, bringing the city to an effective standstill with most businesses, schools and the stock exchange shut.
Saola, packing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph), is expected to move towards the coast of eastern Guangdong, the neighbouring province on the Chinese mainland. It could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong since 1949, Chinese authorities said on Thursday as they issued their highest typhoon warning.
Saola is expected to skirt within 100km (60 miles) of Hong Kong on Friday night and Saturday morning, causing weather conditions to deteriorate rapidly, the city’s weather observatory said.
The observatory said it would consider the need to issue higher cyclone warning signals later in the day.
Hong Kong has five rankings for typhoons, 1, 3, 8, 9 and 10, which is the strongest hurricane signal.
All schools in Hong Kong will be closed on Friday, despite being the first day of term for many, the government said.
Crowds jostled at fresh food markets in the city’s downtown Wan Chai district on Thursday afternoon with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long queues with people stocking up ahead of the storm.
Hong Kong’s Observatory said it expects heavy rain and violent winds while the city’s water level is expected to “rise appreciably” until Saturday, with the potential for serious flooding.
The city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said all flights in and out of Hong Kong between 2 pm local time on Friday and 10 am on Saturday have been cancelled.
Further flight delays and cancellations may be required based on the typhoon’s path on Saturday morning, it said.