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Typhoon Saola Strikes Southern China and Hong Kong, Causing Massive Disruptions




  • Magnitude of the Storm: Typhoon Saola, once a super typhoon, is expected to be the region’s most potent storm in five years. Although it has been downgraded to typhoon status by Friday, it still boasts wind speeds equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, reaching up to 220 kilometers per hour. Despite its diminishing strength, it will still bring about violent winds, storm surges, and heavy rain showers, especially in the coastal areas.
  • Hong Kong’s Preparations: On Thursday, as Saola approached, residents of Hong Kong began their preparations. Supermarkets and stores witnessed a rush as people started stocking up on essentials. To alert the citizens, the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) raised a T10 storm warning signal, which is the topmost storm warning level. The last time such a signal was raised was in 2018 for Typhoon Mangkhut.
  • Flight Disruptions: As the typhoon nears, it has disrupted air travel extensively. By Friday morning, Hong Kong had canceled 366 flights and delayed 40 more. Cathay Pacific, the city’s premier airline, ceased all its operations to and from the city until Saturday morning. Apart from Hong Kong, the airports in Shenzhen and the neighboring city of Zhuhai had to cancel hundreds of flights, leaving many stranded.

Evacuations and Safety Measures

  • Evacuations in Guangdong and Hong Kong: In a massive evacuation effort, Guangdong has moved 785,155 people from areas at high risk, while 13 cities have postponed the start of the school term. In Hong Kong, more than 300 passengers were stranded at the airport due to flight cancellations. This forced closure comes on a day when schools and businesses were meant to resume after summer breaks.
  • Shenzhen’s Measures: Shenzhen, a neighboring city to Hong Kong with a population exceeding 17 million, suspended all its activities ranging from work, and businesses to transportation. The city has strongly recommended its citizens to stay indoors and has also set up emergency shelters. In line with this, nearly 85,000 fishing boats were called back to the port as a precautionary measure.
  • Mainland China’s Response: Authorities in mainland China haven’t been left behind in their response. They have released a red warning – the highest in their four-tiered alert system – as Saola nears Guangdong. Further north, the province of Fujian has evacuated over 161,600 of its residents.

Other Effects

  • Financial Impact: Both Hong Kong and the Chinese province of Guangdong, significant financial hubs in Asia, had to shut down their businesses and financial markets. In Macau, casinos will temporarily close from Friday night until further announcements. This is a significant hit to the casino industry, which was recovering from the impacts of COVID-19-related lockdowns.
  • Infrastructure Shut Down: Among other infrastructure, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, a critical connection linking the three cities, was closed on Friday as a safety measure.

Expert Opinion

One expert highlighted the unpredictability of typhoons. According to climatologist Shao Sun of the University of California, Irvine, the real damage caused by typhoons is determined by how long they hover over land. Shao mentioned Tropical Storm Rumbia in 2018 as a prime example. Despite its moderate intensity, its long lifespan, especially over mainland China, caused significant destruction.

Looking Forward

Residents of these affected areas are advised to stay updated on the storm’s progress and adhere to safety guidelines provided by authorities. For more information on storm safety precautions, residents can refer to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

In conclusion, while typhoons and tropical cyclones are not uncommon in this region, Typhoon Saola has necessitated extensive precautionary measures. The coordinated efforts of local governments, agencies, and residents are crucial to mitigating its effects and ensuring safety.