Typhoon Nuri threatens HK with direct hit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2008, 12:00am

Guangdong evacuates 250,000

Hong Kong last night braced itself for its second shutdown in a month as Typhoon Nuri churned in on a path that indicated it could score a direct hit on the city this evening.

Guangdong authorities were also preparing for what mainland meteorologists described as the strongest typhoon to hit the province so far this year, evacuating almost 250,000 people from coastal areas.

Nuri, which left seven people dead in the northern Philippines, was at midnight 260km southeast of Hong Kong, moving west-northwest at 14km/h and packing winds of 120km/h at its centre.

Its forecast track indicated it would hit Hong Kong at about 8pm today - raising the possibility of a rare typhoon signal No 10.

Cautious meteorologists said, however, that the track could change and the storm bypass the city.

At 8.40pm, the Observatory replaced standby No 1 signal, in force since Wednesday, with a No 3 strong wind warning and said it could not rule out raising the No 8 signal later.

Senior scientific officer Edwin Ginn Wing-lui said the possible effects of the storm could vary widely.

'It hinges upon the typhoon's intensity, while a slight shift to the east or west will lead to wide deviations in its impact,' he said, adding that Nuri's centre wind speed had weakened from 140km/h to 120km/h.

The No 10 signal is hoisted when sustained wind speeds exceed 118km/h with gusts over 220km/h.

Earlier this month, Severe Tropical Storm Kammuri, with a centre wind speed of up to 112km/h, forced businesses and schools to close under typhoon signal No 8.

The approaching typhoon has already affected sea traffic. At least four China Airlines flights to and from Taiwan were cancelled yesterday, as were some of today's mainland-bound ferry services.

By last night, 10 Dragonair flights today had been cancelled and it and Cathay Pacific urged travellers to check the status of flights before leaving for the airport. All online check-in services have been suspended.

But organisers of the Hong Kong Computer and Communications Festival at the Convention and Exhibition Centre will open free to visitors if signal No 8 is issued today.

In Guangdong, authorities evacuated 246,500 people in 13 coastal cities and ordered 45,000 vessels to stay in port.

Guangdong's weather bureau said Nuri could be the strongest typhoon this year. It forecast that Nuri would make landfall west of Hong Kong between Shangwei and Yangjiang this afternoon.

Provincial weather bureau chief Yu Yong said Nuri posed serious flooding risks to Guangdong and threatened maritime safety.

The bureau expected between 100mm and 300mm would fall across the province in the next three days. Officers from the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters have been sent to Guangdong to deal with a possible emergency.

Most of Shenzhen's ferry links to Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai have been halted and travellers warned of flight delays at Shenzhen airport.

In Shenzhen, owners of factories and shops that are routinely flooded by storms were boarding up their properties and laying sand bags to minimise damage.

The previous No 10 storm to hit Hong Kong was Typhoon York, which left three people dead in 1999.