Hundreds of flights were cancelled in China's Guangdong province and Hong Kong as Super Typhoon Saola moved closer to the mainland on Friday, forcing authorities to raise a strong storm advisory and closing businesses, schools and financial markets.
Three tropical cyclones have formed in the northwest Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, with Saola and Haikui already labelled typhoons while Kirogi, the most distant from land, still classified as a tropical storm, according to weather forecasters.
Saola is packing winds of more than 200 kph and is moving towards the coast of eastern Guangdong, the province that encompasses Hong Kong. It could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong since 1949, Chinese authorities said on Thursday as they issued their highest typhoon warning.
Saola could make landfall Friday night or Saturday morning as a severe typhoon along the coast from Huidong to Taishan in Guangdong, China's National Meteorological Centre said, which has kept its highest typhoon red warning in place. Hong Kong and neighbouring Macau lie in the centre of that coastline.
Weather conditions could deteriorate rapidly as the typhoon makes landfall, the Hong Kong observatory said, adding it would consider the need to issue higher cyclone warning signals later on Friday.
Hong Kong has five rankings for typhoons, 1, 3, 8, 9 and the highest 10, and currently has Signal 8 in force.
All schools in Hong Kong will be closed on Friday, despite being the first day of term for many, the government said.
Nearby cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou also closed schools, while tech hub Shenzhen went a step further, suspending work, businesses and financial markets from Friday afternoon.
In Hong Kong on Thursday, crowds were seen jostling at fresh food markets in downtown Wan Chai district with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long queues with people stocking up ahead of the storm.
Hong Kong's observatory said it expects heavy rain and violent winds while the city's water level is expected to "rise appreciably" until Saturday, with the potential for serious flooding.
The city's flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said all flights in and out of Hong Kong between 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) on Friday and 10:00 am (0200 GMT) on Saturday have been cancelled.
Further flight delays and cancellations may be required based on the typhoon's path on Saturday morning, it said.
By 10:55 am (0255 GMT) Friday, Zhuhai and Shenzhen airports cancelled hundreds of flights, data from Flight Master showed.
Guangdong authorities suspended all trains in and out of the province from 8:00 pm (1200 GMT) Friday to 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) Saturday.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that connects the three cities will be closed from 3:30 pm (0730 GMT) on Friday to ensure of transport safety, the local Southern Metropolis Daily reported, without giving a date for opening of the bridge.
Macau's Weather Observatory said it would raise its wind warning level to Signal 8 between 1 p.m and 3 p.m. on Friday. It said it expects to raise it to the highest Signal 10 early on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Haikui is approaching Taiwan and expected to make landfall on the northern part of the island on Sunday before heading towards the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.