A powerful typhoon brought Hong Kong to a shutdown Thursday, with financial markets and businesses forced to close as it swept past before slamming into the Chinese island of Hainan.
Typhoon Nesat, which claimed 35 lives when it barrelled across the Philippines this week, buffeted Hong Kong with winds of up to 121 kilometres (75 miles) an hour.
Weather authorities in mainland China issued the first red typhoon alert of the year as Nesat gained momentum near Hainan, an island popular with tourists.
China’s National Meteorological Centre warned of flooding and mudslide risks on Hainan and urged the cancellation of all outdoor activities.
About 300,000 people were evacuated in Hainan in the face of the strongest typhoon to hit China this year as it landed in Wenchang city packing winds of up to 151 kilometres an hour.
Authorities in the island province called boats back to port, suspended flight and ferry services and closed schools, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
In Vietnam, authorities said fishing boats should return to port and urged farmers to harvest crops quickly to reduce potential losses from Nesat, which is expected to reach northern provinces on Friday.
The Hong Kong Observatory hoisted a number-eight tropical cyclone warning before dawn, triggering the closure of schools and transport services, and authorities opened typhoon shelters for those seeking refuge.
Three people were injured by falling scaffolding and tree branches, and about 50 people were evacuated from their homes after a barge slipped its moorings in heavy seas and crashed into a seawall, public broadcaster RTHK said.
Most businesses were shut and bus services halted, leaving the normally bustling central business district eerily quiet, with only a few people struggling to work on foot.
The observatory lowered the number-eight warning to number three at 4:10pm (0810 GMT) as Nesat made its way across the South China Sea, skirting Hong Kong before making landfall on the resort island of Hainan.
In Hong Kong, the observatory urged the public to continue to remain alert.
“Nesat has made landfall over the northeastern part of Hainan island this afternoon, and continues to move further away from Hong Kong,” it said.
Financial markets, courts, schools and government buildings are all closed and ferry services suspended during a number-eight signal. The highest signal that can be issued is number 10.
Hong Kong, a major shipping hub, also suspended port services.
At least 287 flights were disrupted at Hong Kong International Airport by Thursday afternoon, including 20 cancellations and 245 delays, an airport authority spokeswoman told AFP.
A similar number-eight warning was hoisted in the southern Chinese city of Macau, which is an hour’s ferry ride from Hong Kong, suspending public transportation and closing schools there too.
In the Philippines, tens of thousands of people were still battling neck-deep floodwaters Thursday after Nesat’s deadly path across Luzon, and authorities said the toll was likely to rise.
Nesat made landfall in the Philippines on Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and winds that caused storm surges and massive flooding including in the capital Manila. -By Beh Lih Yi