Hong Kong, other parts of south China grind to near standstill as Super Typhoon Saola edges closer

by Lucas Garcia
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Typhoon disruption

Hong Kong and several regions in southern China have experienced a significant disruption in their normal activities due to the imminent arrival of Super Typhoon Saola. On Friday, a substantial portion of Hong Kong and other areas in the southern part of China came to a virtual standstill, as the approach of Super Typhoon Saola led to the cancellation of classes and flights.

The typhoon’s trajectory suggests the possibility of making landfall in the southern region of China. As a result, a considerable number of workers opted to stay at home, prioritizing safety. In multiple cities, students were faced with a delay in the commencement of the school year, with the beginning of classes postponed to the following week. Meanwhile, the impact on Hong Kong’s economic activities was palpable, as the city’s stock market trading was suspended, and over 400 flights were either canceled or faced delays. This was particularly significant considering Hong Kong’s role as a central hub for both business and travel within the region.

Notably, mainland Chinese rail authorities took swift action by ordering the suspension of all train operations entering or departing from Guangdong province. This suspension was enforced from Friday night until early Saturday evening. These measures were communicated by state media outlet CCTV.

The Hong Kong Observatory, responsible for tracking weather conditions, issued a No. 8 typhoon signal – the third-highest warning level in the city’s weather alert system – early on Friday. This signal served as an indicator of the imminent danger posed by Super Typhoon Saola. The forecast released by the observatory indicated that the typhoon, with its maximum sustained winds reaching 210 kilometers per hour (130 miles per hour), would come closest to Hong Kong’s financial hub on Friday night and into Saturday morning. The storm was expected to approach within approximately 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the south of the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district in the city.

The observatory’s director, Chan Pak-wai, provided insights into the potential trajectory of the typhoon. He stated that if the strength of the winds escalated to hurricane levels, there was a possibility of upgrading the alert level to a No. 10 typhoon signal. This No. 10 hurricane signal stands as the highest warning level in the observatory’s system and was last employed during the impact of Super Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018. Chan anticipated a gradual weakening of the winds as the typhoon moved away from Hong Kong on Saturday.

Serious concerns were raised about potential flooding in low-lying coastal areas. The observatory’s warning included the possibility of experiencing a water level similar to that witnessed during the previous Super Typhoon Mangkhut. The 2018 typhoon resulted in the uprooting of trees and the dismantling of scaffolding from buildings that were under construction in the city.

In preparation for the anticipated heavy rains and strong winds, approximately 190 individuals sought refuge at temporary shelters. Some ferry and bus services were suspended, and residents living in vulnerable low-lying regions took preventative measures by placing sandbags at their doorways to safeguard their homes from potential flooding. The government reported two instances of fallen trees and three cases of flooding. Additionally, there was an unfortunate incident in which a man sustained injuries during the typhoon and subsequently sought medical treatment at a public hospital.

Macao, a nearby casino hub, also faced the risk of flooding. Weather authorities in Macao predicted that the water level might rise up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) in low-lying areas by Saturday morning. In light of the impending conditions, the cross-border bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macao, and Zhuhai city was slated for closure in the mid-afternoon.

Shenzhen, a prominent technology and finance center, took proactive measures by ordering the suspension of work and business operations from late afternoon onward. This decision was prompted by the anticipated landfall of the typhoon in the city or its nearby vicinities on Friday night. A ban on entries to highways in Shenzhen was also implemented, beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing until further notice, with the exception of rescue crews.

China’s National Meteorological Center projected that Super Typhoon Saola might make landfall in Guangdong province, specifically in the region spanning from Huidong County to Taishan city. This area shares its borders with Hong Kong and is expected to be within the storm’s trajectory between Friday night and Saturday morning. However, the possibility of the typhoon veering westward along the central Guangdong shoreline was not ruled out.

In conjunction with the approaching Super Typhoon Saola, another storm named Haikui was moving gradually toward the eastern coastal regions of China. The convergence of these two weather phenomena, along with the influence of Saola, was expected to result in strong winds and heavy rainfall across parts of Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang provinces. In a proactive effort to ensure public safety, around 100,000 individuals residing in high-risk areas in Fujian were relocated to safer locations.

Saola’s trajectory led it to pass just south of Taiwan before redirecting its course toward mainland China. The outer bands of the typhoon unleashed torrential rain upon southern cities in Taiwan. Prior to its arrival in China, Saola also impacted the Philippines earlier in the week, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of residents in the northern regions due to flooding.

China has confronted a series of significant weather-related challenges in recent months, including extensive rainfall and devastating flooding in various regions. The impact of these events has been severe, resulting in loss of life and significant disruptions. These challenges have also encompassed areas such as the mountainous outskirts of the capital, Beijing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Typhoon disruption

What led to the disruption of activities in Hong Kong and southern China?

The disruption was caused by the imminent arrival of Super Typhoon Saola, prompting the cancellation of classes, flights, and market operations.

How did the typhoon impact Hong Kong’s stock market?

Trading in Hong Kong’s stock market was suspended due to the approaching Super Typhoon Saola, affecting regional business activities.

Were there any measures taken to ensure public safety during the typhoon?

Yes, mainland Chinese rail authorities suspended train operations in Guangdong province, and residents in low-lying areas used sandbags to prevent flooding.

What was the extent of the typhoon’s winds and the potential for flooding?

Super Typhoon Saola had maximum sustained winds of 210 km/h and posed a risk of serious flooding in low-lying coastal areas, comparable to previous typhoon impacts.

How did other regions in China prepare for the typhoon’s impact?

In Shenzhen, work and businesses were suspended, and highways were closed to ensure safety. In Fujian, around 100,000 people were relocated from high-risk areas.

Did Super Typhoon Saola affect neighboring regions before reaching China?

Yes, the typhoon passed south of Taiwan, bringing heavy rain, and it also impacted the Philippines earlier in the week, causing flooding and displacements.

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