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Hong Kong in lockdown as Typhoon Haima nears

HONG KONG (AFP) – 

The usually frenetic streets of Hong Kong were deserted Friday as the city went into lockdown for Typhoon Haima, which has killed at least eight people in the Philippines.

Flights were cancelled, roads were clear of cars and pavements empty, with schools and offices shut as the storm loomed southeast of Hong Kong.

Trading on the city’s stock exchange was postponed and was unlikely to resume Friday.

At 8:00 am (0000 GMT Thursday) Haima’s centre was 190 kilometres (120 miles) away and was expected to come closest to the city around noon, before moving on to southern mainland China.

The Hong Kong Observatory raised its Number 8 storm signal early Friday — the third highest warning level — forecasting strong winds and rain.

“Seas are rough and there are swells. Members of the public should stay on high alert, stay away from the shoreline,” the observatory said, with wind speeds expected to reach more than 60 kilometres per hour.

Despite the warning, some residents headed to the harbour to take pictures of waves, while some lone anglers also tried their luck.

Ferry services including the city’s famous cross-harbour Star Ferry were cancelled as waters grew increasingly choppy.

More than 200 flights have been axed in and out of Hong Kong, local media reported.

Flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said it expected “significant disruptions” to its flights between 11:00 am and 10:00 pm (0300 GMT to 1400 GMT) Friday.

Underground metro train services were also reduced and all buses cancelled.

Thursday night saw a citywide swoop on supermarket shelves with massive queues as residents stocked up ahead of the storm. Some shops boarded up windows to protect against wind-borne debris.

The city is expected to remain in lockdown for most of Friday until the storm passes.

Haima which means “seahorse” in Chinese, had already wreaked havoc in the Philippines where it brought ferocious gales and landslides.

Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed and at least eight people killed.

When it hit the Philippines late Wednesday night, Haima was categorised as a super typhoon.

It brought winds similar to those of catastrophic Haiyan in 2013, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives.

Haima has since been downgraded to a typhoon as wind speeds at its centre have dropped from 200 kilometres an hour to 145 kilometres an hour.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161021-hong-kong-lockdown-typhoon-haima-nears