China has issued the highest level of warning as Typhoon Saola, packing winds of more than 200kmph (125mph), headed towards the southeastern coastline, threatening Hong Kong and other main manufacturing hubs in nearby Guangdong province.
Forecasters issued a typhoon red warning at 6am (22:00 GMT) on Thursday.
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China’s National Meteorological Center said Saola, currently located about 315km (183 miles) southeast of Guangdong province, will move northwest across the South China Sea at a speed of about 10kmph (6mph), gradually approaching the coast of Guangdong, then slowly weaken in intensity.
Chinese state media reported at least 121 passenger trains were suspending service, while people in coastal areas of southern China were being warned to stay away from the coastline.
The suspensions on key lines running from north to south as well as on regional networks will continue through September 6, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Saola will make landfall along the coast somewhere from Huilai County in Guangdong to Hong Kong on the afternoon to the night of September 1, the centre said, adding with its forecasted intensity, it could be among the five strongest typhoons to land in Guangdong since 1949.
As Saola approaches, Guangdong’s Shenzhen city said it would upgrade the typhoon warning level to yellow, the second lowest, and suspend classes at nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.
Avoid coastal areas
China Southern Power Grid said it was stepping up inspection of equipment and strengthening measures to prevent water leakage in basement power rooms.
As the hurricane moved closer to Hong Kong, the city’s leader, John Lee, said in a Facebook post that he had requested various government departments to plan ahead and urged residents to take precautionary measures. Many students were due to begin their new school year on Friday, and it was unclear whether they would be able to do so.
The Hong Kong Observatory warned of squally showers, strengthening winds and a possible storm surge in low-lying areas of the crowded financial centre. It urged residents to avoid water sports and stay away from coastal areas.
Saola will also bring storm surges to coastal low-lying areas, the observatory noted, estimating Saola is currently about 440km (270 miles) from the metropolis.
Until 8am (00:00 GMT) on Friday, there will be heavy rainfall in parts of Fujian and areas of Guangdong. Downpours could be 100-220mm (3.9-8.7 inches) in some areas.
Saola’s winds are also affecting Fujian province, where videos on social media showed waves crashing along the coastline. The meteorological administration of Shishi city issued a typhoon blue warning.
The typhoon is currently travelling directly south of Taiwan, in the Bashi Channel, the band of the ocean that separates Taiwan and the Philippines.
The typhoon passed by the Philippines earlier this week, without any reports of casualties so far. However, in the northern part of the islands, the typhoon’s torrential rains and fierce winds enhanced seasonal monsoon rains, flooding low-lying villages and displacing nearly 50,000 people, including 35,000 villagers who fled to government-run evacuation centres. Seaports suspended interisland ferry services due to rough seas, and more than 100 houses were damaged.
The typhoon is expected to hit China’s southern Fujian and Guangdong provinces on Friday. China’s National Meteorological Center said the storm is expected to weaken as it approaches land.