Hong Kong in lockdown as Typhoon Haima nears
The usually frenetic streets of Hong Kong were deserted Friday as the city went into lockdown for Typhoon Haima (locally known as Lawin), which has killed at least eight people in the Philippines.
Flights were cancelled, roads were clear of cars and pavements empty, with schools and offices shut as the storm loomed southeast of Hong Kong.
Trading on the city’s stock exchange was postponed and was unlikely to resume Friday.
At 11:00 am (0300 GMT) Haima’s centre was 130 kilometres (80 miles) away and was expected to come closest to the city around noon, before hitting southern mainland China.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued a Number 8 storm signal early Friday — the third-highest warning level — forecasting strong winds and rain.
“Seas are rough and there are swells. Members of the public should stay on high alert, stay away from the shoreline,” the observatory said, with wind speeds expected to reach more than 60 kilometres per hour.
Despite the warning, some residents headed to the harbor to take pictures of waves, while lone anglers also tried their luck.
On the waterfront in the western Hong Kong neighborhood of Kennedy Town, residents stood next to roadside coastal barriers to get soaked by waves.
“I’m actually happy about the bad weather because now we get a holiday,” said Louisa Li at a housing complex in east Hong Kong.
She had brought her baby down to “feel the wind”, she told Agence France-Presse as her husband took photos.
There was heavy rain Friday morning and winds picked up. Gusts were up to 98 kilometres per hour, the observatory said, with trees felled.
Ferry services including the city’s famous cross-harbor Star Ferry were cancelled as waters grew increasingly choppy.
Five hundred flights have been cancelled in and out of Hong Kong, according to the city’s airport authority, with others facing delays.
Flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said it expected “significant disruptions” to its flights between 11:00 am and 10:00 pm (0300 GMT to 1400 GMT) Friday.
Underground metro train services were also reduced and all buses cancelled.
The government has set up 20 shelters around the city.
Haima, which means “seahorse” in Chinese, had already wreaked havoc in the Philippines where it brought ferocious gales and landslides.
Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed and at least eight people killed.
When it hit the Philippines late Wednesday night, Haima was categorized as a supertyphoon.
It brought winds similar to those of catastrophic Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives.
Haima has since been downgraded to a typhoon as wind speeds at its center have dropped from 200 kilometers an hour to 145 kilometers an hour.
Thursday night saw a citywide swoop on supermarket shelves in Hong Kong with massive queues as residents stocked up ahead of the storm. Some shops boarded up windows to protect against wind-borne debris.
The city is expected to remain in lockdown for most of Friday until the storm passes.
It comes after a week of downpours in Hong Kong which brought severe flooding to some parts of the city.
Traffic was caught in torrents of water flowing down main roads on Wednesday as the observatory issued its severest “black rainstorm” warning./rga
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