Hong Kong: Hong Kong started gradually reopening Saturday after a typhoon forecast to be the strongest to hit the territory in about five years departed, leaving minimal reported damage.
The city’s airport, businesses and public transportation began slowly resuming operations, while street cleaners cleared debris and uprooted trees that Severe Typhoon Saola left in its wake. The Hong Kong Observatory lowered its storm warning from the highest No. 10 level to the No. 8 signal at 3:40 am Saturday, and said it would it consider dropping again before 4 pm
The typhoon was accompanied by powerful gales and caused flooding in at least 12 areas, with 55 people seeking treatment at public hospitals, according to the government. Saola earlier sustained winds of 210 km/h near the center, as strong as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
The Airport Authority, the city’s airport operator, said about 480 flights will be operating Saturday to and from Hong Kong, compared with the 850 scheduled to depart or arrive on Friday. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said its first departure was set for around 11 am to Sydney, slightly earlier than the original plan, as the airport’s largest airline seeks to recover quickly from the major weather disruption.
The city’s stock market was closed Friday in advance of the storm’s arrival and school was suspended through Saturday. Most public transportation was grounded. The Hong Kong exchange is required to halt trading when Signal No. 8 or above is in place. Trading halts due to severe weather are seen as increasingly antiquated given that the global finance industry adjusted to remote working during the pandemic.
With most orders now received and executed electronically, the case is growing for Hong Kong to ensure continuous trading in bad weather. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said earlier this year that the city will explore arrangements to allow stock trading under severe weather.
The latest storm, the strongest to affect Hong Kong since at least Mangkhut in 2018, was seen as a major test for Chief Executive John Lee’s government. Mangkhut provoked public criticism after roads remained blocked for days by some of the tens of thousands of trees toppled by the typhoon and people struggled to get to work.
In the past 40 years, only five storms have prompted the raising of the highest signal in Hong Kong, according to observatory data. The No. 10 signal means hurricane force winds reaching a sustained speed of at least 118 km/h.
China’s national weather authorities reiterated their highest alert for the typhoon on Friday, warning of severe weather in the coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong, and urging local officials to be ready for flash flooding.
In nearby Macau, a Chinese-speaking island that is the world’s biggest gambling hub, the government reopened casinos on Saturday after a rare shutdown the night before when Typhoon Saola lashed the city. Authorities lowered the storm warning from the highest No. 10 level to No. 8 signal at 6 am.
Meanwhile, another storm was headed for Taiwan and eastern China, with Taipei issuing a land warning on Saturday for the approach of Typhoon Haikui. The Central Weather Bureau said the typhoon, with sustained winds up to 137 km/h and gusting to 173 km/h, was 520 kilometers (323 miles) from Taiwan’s southernmost point as of 11 am local time.