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Strong waves hit the coast of Shenzhen in southern China’s Guangdong province on Sunday brought on by the approaching Typhoon Usagi. Photo: AFP  (AFP )
Strong waves hit the coast of Shenzhen in southern China’s Guangdong province on Sunday brought on by the approaching Typhoon Usagi. Photo: AFP
(AFP )

Hong Kong, China brace for Typhoon Usagi as flights are cut

Typhoon Usagi is expected to make landfall to the east of Hong Kong late on Sunday and early Monday morning

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is bracing for possible floods and thousands of travelers are stranded in the city and across the region as Typhoon Usagi moves toward southern China after battering Taiwan.

The Hong Kong Observatory said it will raise the No. 8 Storm Signal, the third-highest level, at or before 7 p.m. local time. More than 430 flights have been affected, with Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, canceling flights.

Usagi will disrupt travel as people try to return home at the end of a three-day holiday weekend in Hong Kong and four in China to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival. Thousands of people were evacuated by the Chinese government from low-lying coastal areas in its Fujian province as storms knock out power lines and disrupt shipping.

“It’s probably the worst weekend ever", Jessica Coelho, a Hong Kong-based human resources executive who’s stranded in Singapore, said by phone on Sunday. “It’s a nightmare trying to get back. Everyone is trying to get on a plane home."

The storm, the most powerful to threaten the city since Severe Typhoon Utor in August, is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) east of Hong Kong and is moving west-northwest at about 20 kilometers an hour, the weather bureau said at 5:05 p.m. local time. The agency issued a strong wind signal, No. 3, with maximum sustained winds of 81 kilometers an hour.

Fujian Province

Locally, gales are already affecting high ground and winds generally over the territory will continue to strengthen, the observatory said.

In China’s Fujian province, Usagi-related storms knocked out three power lines this morning, cutting off electricity to about 170,000 households before it was restored to all but 25,000 by noon, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The Fujian Provincial Flood Control Headquarters said that storm tides would pose a threat to coastal embankments starting at 2 p.m. as the typhoon coincides with high tide.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from low-lying coastal areas in the province, Xinhua reported. The flood control headquarters ordered reinforced patrols so emergency repairs can be carried out to prevent embankment breaches.

Taiwan Battered

Usagi dumped as much as 70 centimeters of rain in Taiwan’s east on Saturday, left nine people injured and disrupted more than 100 flights, the Central Emergency Operation Center said.

“My original flight was scheduled at 12:40 p.m. on Sunday and it’s canceled", said Draco Ng, a Hong Kong-based lawyer stranded in Taipei. “We tried the customer services hotline but no one answered".

Cathay Pacific Airways and its Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd. unit will stop operations in the city from 6 p.m. on Sunday. Hong Kong Airlines also canceled all flights out of the city from 6 p.m., it said.

Air China Ltd. canceled 148 flights on Sunday as airports in Xiamen, Shantou, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Hong Kong and Macau were affected. It may adjust more flights depending on weather conditions.

Few Shoppers

The impending storm has driven away tourists from Hong Kong’s Central district, with few shoppers seen at retailers including Gucci Group and Longchamp.

“We had planned to take a ferry to Macau this afternoon, but the ferry got canceled because of typhoon", said Xiao Tongqin from China’s Tianjin, who was in Central with her husband. “What can you do? We just have bad luck."

Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. stopped its TurboJet ferry service between Hong Kong and Macau.

Grocery shelves were almost empty today at a Tuen Mun ParknShop store in Hong Kong, with only a few packs of instant noodles left and most vegetables sold out.

“The supermarket is so packed", Fanny Wong, 54, a housewife who bought six packs of instant noodles, two cans of luncheon meat and some eggs, said at the store in the district’s Pierhead Garden. “People are just stocking up everything, from instant noodles, bread to ingredients for hotpot such as mushrooms, pak choi and other vegetables. It took me about half an hour to check out."

Usagi is expected to make landfall to the east of Hong Kong and will skirt the territory at around 100 kilometers later tonight and early tomorrow morning, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

Typhoon Season

Usagi is classified as a severe typhoon, one grade lower than a super typhoon. It’s equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, meaning extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage, according to the US National Hurricane Center website.

Hong Kong, situated off China’s southern coast, gets on average about six tropical cyclones annually, according to the weather bureau. Severe Typhoon Vicente, the most serious storm to hit Hong Kong since 1999, brought schools, banks and flights to a halt last year as it felled trees and damaged a coal conveyor belt.

“I came to Hong Kong for work last week and spent my weekend here", said Jay Johnson, a US-based businessman. “It was a lovely stay but now it’s such a headache getting out. I need to be in Munich for a business meeting on Monday but now I may need to cancel it," said Johnson by phone from HK airport. BLOOMBERG

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