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Hong Kong, southern China brace for Super Typhoon Saola

September 1, 2023

Officials said Soaloa could be the strongest typhoon to make landfall in the region encompassing Hong Kong and other major cities since the founding of the current Chinese state.

A woman selects products near empty shelves at a supermarket as Super Typhoon Saola approaches Hong Kong
People have been preparing for the storm, with some shelves at supermarkets already empty by FridayImage: Daniel Ceng/AP/picture alliance

Life in Hong Kong and parts of southern China came to a standstill on Friday as Super Typhoon Saola moved closer, forcing closure of school, businesses and markets.

"Saola may become the strongest typhoon to make landfall in the Pearl River Delta since 1949," the year of the founding of the People's Republic of Chine, the country's Central Meteorological Observatory said.

The Pearl River Delta region comprises the cities of Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Macau and others.

What we know so far

Three tropical storms have formed in the northwest Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. Of these, Saola and Haikui have been labeled as typhoons, while Kirogi has been classified as a tropical storm by weather forecasters. 

Packing winds of over 200 kilometers per hour (125 miles per hour), Saola is currently moving toward the Guangdong province, which encompasses Hong Kong. This could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit the province since 1949, authorities said while issuing a red alert warning, the highest in its arsenal. 

Saola, the nearest storm, is expected to make landfall along the coast from Huidong to Taishan in Guangdong on Friday night or Saturday morning, China's National Meteorological Center said. 

"Apart from emergency response personnel and livelihood protection personnel, people are advised not to go out," said the emergency response department of the city of Shenzhen, with a population of 17.7 million. "The city will open all shelters for the public to take refuge." 

Hong Kong could face 'serious flooding'

Hong Kong and neighboring Macau lie in the center of that coastline. Hong Kong's observatory said it expects heavy rain and violent winds.

The city's water level will likely "rise appreciably" until Saturday. "There may be serious flooding," the observatory said. 

The eastern coastal areas of the city could see water levels reach the heights of 2018 when Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong. Over 300 people had been injured. 

Flights grounded, schools shut 

Schools were shut across Hong Kong, despite Friday being the first day of the new term for several, the government said.

Shenzhen and Guangzhou also closed schools. Tech hub Shenzhen went a step ahead, suspending work, businesses and financial markets from Friday afternoon. 

By 10:55 a.m. (0255 GMT) Friday, Zhuhai and Shenzhen airports canceled hundreds of flights, according to Flight Master. Guangdong authorities suspended all trains in and out of the province from 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) Friday to 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) Saturday. 

Hong Kong flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said all flights in and out of Hong Kong between 2 p.m. (0600 GMT) on Friday and 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Saturday were canceled, with a possibility of more delays.

The world's biggest gambling hub Macau has ordered all casinos closed as a safety precaution.


Typhoon Haikui is expected to make landfall in the northern part of Taiwan on Sunday before heading toward the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, the island's Central Weather Bureau said. 

Typhoon Doksuri brings floods to northern China

mk/fb (Reuters, AFP, AP)