Storm signal lowered No 3 as Typhoon Utor moves away from Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 6:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 August, 2013, 7:58pm

Scores of flights were cancelled on Wednesday after Typhoon Utor skirted Hong Kong, closing schools, offices and the city's stock exchange for the day.

The Hong Kong Observatory lowered the storm signal from No 8 to 3 on Wednesday afternoon as Utor was moving gradually away from the city.

Much of the city resembled a ghost town, with empty streets and a minimal public transport running, as people opted to stay indoors.

At its nearest point Utor was 250 kilometres from Hong Kong, but as the day progressed its intensity was easing, the Observatory said.

Trading at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange remained cancelled for the whole day.

Video: Hong Kong battens down for Severe Typhoon Utor

“According to the present forecast track, Utor will make landfall near Yangjiang over the western coast of Guangdong and will move gradually away from Hong Kong in the afternoon,” an observatory spokesman said.

The spokesman said the intensity of Utor and its associated rainbands near Hong Kong had also weakened.

The MTR Corporation, which operates the city’s railway network, said it would increase train services to deal with increased traffic by workers returning to work if the signal No 8 was dropped. 

Citybus and KMB said they would resume services gradually about 1pm.

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A spokesman from the Airport Authority said about 110 flights - 53 arrivals and 57 departures - will be cancelled on Wednesday, while 136 arrivals and 105 departures will be delayed. The number of arrivals and departures are about 1,000 each on an average day.

Ben and Marika, a couple from Sydney, said their Hong Kong Airlines flight to Hanoi at 5.50pm was cancelled and the airline so far has yet to confirm if they can board the same flight on Thursday.

"Well, the worst that can happen is our stay in Hanoi will be cut short by one day," Ben said, adding that they are going to spend the night at the airport.

The couple was not happy that they were repeatedly told to come back to the counter to check for updates.

Two businessmen, surnamed Shen and Zhao, from Hubei province, were scheduled to board a China Southern Airlines flight at 11am to Wuhan but found out on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport that the flight was delayed to 5.30pm.

"Perhaps it's fate," said Zhao, suggesting that the airline could have texted him earlier in the morning before he left the hotel.

On Wednesday morning, a 26-year-old woman was taken to hospital as a result of the storm, according to Hong Kong’s hospital authority. She was in a stable condition.

Utor is the fifth tropical cyclone of the year that has required a typhoon signal be raised, and is the first severe typhoon to approach in 13 months. Utor will be closest to the city during the day, skirting around 250 kilometres to the southwest of Hong Kong, the Observatory said. It added that it would consider issuing a T3 signal at around 2pm on Wednesday.

Ferry terminals, schools and courts were closed on Wednesday morning as strong winds and heavy rainstorms lashed Hong Kong. Maximum sustained winds in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island were 110km/h, 77km/h in Cheung Chau and 42km/h in Kai Tak.

Cathay Pacific announced that 15 incoming and outgoing flights are to be cancelled today, and a similar number of Dragonair flights are also affected. Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo are among the routes affected.

The airlines suggested those with travel plans today and tomorrow postpone them if possible and that rebooking fees would be waived.

There were no reports of flooding or landslides as of Wednesday morning.

There were 15 cases of fallen trees reported across the city last night, including in Deep Water Bay, Hung Hom, Tin Shui Wai, Sai Kung and Tai Po. No one was reported hurt.

A satellite dish on a Kowloon City rooftop was toppled by strong winds, taking down a street lamp as it fell yesterday afternoon. Another dish in To Kwa Wan also crashed to the ground, damaging three motorcycles.

Early this morning, 500 people were reportedly forced out into the fierce weather when a fire broke out at Chuk Yuen Estate, Wong Tai Sin. There were reports of explosions.

The storm is expected to make landfall in Guangdong this evening. Waves as high as 11 metres were expected in the north of the South China Sea on Wednesday, Xinhua reported, with disaster prevention teams requested for the Guangdong area.

The strong wind signal No 3 was in force for most of yesterday, as heavy rain and fierce winds lashed the city.

Utor killed four people in the Philippines and left another seven missing. The town of Casiguran in the northeast was largely destroyed, and it was said to be the strongest storm so far this year.

Reporting by Samuel Chan, Jennifer Ngo, Lai Ying-kit and additional information from Agence France-Presse.