Hong Kong, Sep 1 (EFE).- Schools and businesses were closed and transportation affected in Hong Kong on Friday ahead of the imminent arrival of super typhoon Saola, which is approaching the southern coast of China, where it could make landfall in the next hours.
The Hong Kong Observatory raised the storm alert to level no. 9 – its second highest warning out of a scale of ten -, which could be increased to the highest level if wind speeds reach hurricane levels in coastal and higher areas over the next two days.
At 6 pm, the storm was about 90 kilometers (56 miles) east-southeast of the Observatory and was forecast to move west or west-northwest at about 12 kilometers per hour (7 miles hour) towards the vicinity of the Pearl River Estuary.
The agency warned that the water level in low-lying coastal areas would rise rapidly on Friday night to reach up to 6 meters at Tolo Harbour, about 4 meters above the normal tide level, while water levels over other coastal areas of Hong Kong would start to rise “significantly” from 6 am on Saturday.
“Seas will be high with swells. Members of the public are advised to stay away from the shoreline and not to engage in water sports,” the Observatory said.
Some 150 people were evacuated to temporary shelters on Friday while in the low-lying areas, businesses and residents had placed sandbags at the doors of their buildings and boarded their windows to prevent damage.
The impending arrival of Saola has also led to the cancellation of 366 flights and delayed another 40, according to the Airport Authority, with Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, HK Express and Greater Bay Airlines being the worst affected.
While the Airport Express train service was operating normally until noon on Friday, some bus services and routes had been restricted.
Before turning toward mainland China, Saola brushed the southern tip of Taiwan, causing torrential rainfall.
It had previously lashed the Philippines, leaving at least one dead and tens of thousands displaced due to floods.
Hong Kong is hit by around six typhoons each year, usually during the June-October season, though only a fraction of those result in business or school closures.
The last super typhoon that struck the city was Mangkhut in 2018, which caused direct economic losses estimated at about HK$4.6 billion ($586 million). EFE