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Hong Kong shakes off Typhoon Vicente
Stock market and offices due to reopen after gale-force winds and heavy rains lashed former British colony overnight.
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2012 06:37
Storm's gale force winds of up to 140kph grounded flights and temporarily shut port operations [Reuters]

Hong Kong's stock market and offices are expected to open after the city lowered a tropical cyclone warning after being battered by a severe typhoon overnight.

Typhoon Vicente's gale-force winds weakened and it began to move away from the territory by Tuesday morning.

Earlier, the storm's driving rain and 140km-per-hour winds had grounded flights and shut port operations, with authorities issuing the No 10 tropical cyclone signal, the most severe such warning, for several hours overnight.

A government spokesman confirmed shortly after 10am (02:00 GMT) on Tuesday that the signal had been reduced to a level of three from eight.

Financial markets, schools, businesses and non-essential government services close when a No 8 signal or above is issued.

The storm began to veer away from the city and weaken earlier on Tuesday, but with the No 8 warning still in effect, the Hang Seng stock market was closed for the morning.

The market re-opened at 1:00pm local time (05:00 GMT), marking a resumption of business in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

'Chaotic' and 'crazy'

Meanwhile, China's National Meteorological Centre issued an orange alert for the typhoon, the second-highest warning in the country's four-tier typhoon warning system, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Gale-force winds had earlier uprooted trees, created huge waves in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour and sent debris flying through the air. At least 30 people were injured as the storm lashed Hong Kong and parts of China's Guangdong province.

"We haven't experienced this for 10 years. I could hardly walk, the wind kept pushing me," marketing research manager Alpha Yung, 28, told the AFP news agency as she went to work in the almost deserted streets.

Mignon Chan, a 21-year-old marketing assistant, said the storm was "crazy".

"Last time I suffered this kind of weather I was small. It's chaotic here, trees fell down, people fell down, but I still have to work. That's the worst part," she said.

Fifteen flights were cancelled and more than 200 were delayed late on Monday, aviation officials said.

Cathay Pacific, the territory's main carrier, said that it planned to resume some flights, as airlines work to clear a sizeable backlog of passengers.

The Hong Kong Observatory raised the No. 10 signal early on Tuesday as Vicente swept much closer to the territory than was initially expected. The No. 10 signal has not been raised since 1999.

More than 30,000 Chinese fishing boats were alerted to return to harbour, with 10,560 fishermen taking shelter ashore in Guangdong, Chinese state media reported. Storm surges and sea wave warnings were heightened, with winds of up to 100kph expected.

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