Typhoon Hato: Hong Kong braced as hurricane threat set to highest level

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A powerful typhoon has struck Hong Kong, forcing offices and schools to close, flooding streets and grounding hundreds of flights.

Typhoon Hato came within 37 miles of Hong Kong, close enough to be considered a direct hit under its storm warning system. 

It was then headed toward the western side of mainland China’s Pearl River Delta. 

Officials raised the hurricane threat to 10, the highest level, for the first time in five years. 

People react as Typhoon Hato hits Hong Kong(REUTERS)

By midday, Hato was packing maximum sustained winds of 78 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 129 mph on some outlying islands. 

The warning forced businesses, government offices, schools and courts to shut and the stock market to suspend trading, leaving the Asian financial centre’s normally bustling streets eerily quiet. Airlines cancelled 450 flights and ferry operators halted commuter services and routes to the nearby Chinese gambling centre of Macau and cities in the delta. 

Hato’s fierce gales brought down trees, overturned trash cans and blew out windows on skyscrapers, raining shattered glass onto the streets below. 

A Chinese sanitation worker rides a bicycle against the strong wind caused by Typhoon Hato(AFP/Getty Images)

The No. 10 signal has only been hoisted 14 other times since 1946, or one for every 72 storms, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. The last time it went up was for Typhoon Vicente in 2012. 

The observatory warned residents to be prepared for destructive winds, possible flooding and landslips, and advised people to stay away from low-lying areas because storm surges could cause severe flooding. 

Streets near the sea were submerged by waves crashing ashore. 

Hato was skirting south of Hong Kong and was expected to make landfall in China’s Guangdong province. Thousands of people were evacuated from parts of the mainland coast ahead of the storm’s arrival, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Train services were cancelled, fishing boats returned to harbour and more than 4,000 fish farmers and their families came to shore, Xinhua said. Waves up to 33 feet high were expected in the South China Sea, the agency said. 

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