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Hato typhoon hangs over Hong Kong at maximum warning level

Ⓒ AFP – Anthony WALLACE – | Floods in Hong Kong near typhoon Hato, announced as particularly violent, August 23, 2017

The Hong Kong authorities have decreed Wednesday the peak warning level against the typhoon Hato, which paralyzed the usual frantic megalopolis, nailing down hundreds of planes and causing the stock market to close.

Meteorological services (HKO) triggered warning signal 10, the maximum level, at 0900 (0100 GMT), which means that hurricane force winds are expected in the former British colony.

This is the first time in five years that warning level 10 has been declared and the third time only since the territory was returned to China in 1997.

Around 11 am (0300 GMT), Hato was only 60 kilometers south-west of the territory. Giant waves were crashing on the coast and some areas were flooded to the knees.

The typhoon was accompanied by wind blowing in gusts of 168 kilometers per hour, snatching scaffolding, trees or cranes.

“I was on my balcony in my village of Yuen Long when a tree was literally flying past the house,” said Dave Colson, who lives in Yuen Long, New Territories, northwestern Hong Kong .

The streets, usually black, were deserted and covered with branches of trees torn off, except for a few reckless people who tried to film the storm.

According to the Government, two people were injured and approximately 200 people sought refuge in shelters.

Hato is heading towards the Pearl River estuary and is expected to land a hundred kilometers west of Hong Kong in the afternoon.

Ⓒ AFP – Anthony WALLACE – | A man tries to walk despite the wind in Hong Kong, touched by a violent typhoon, August 23, 2017

The Hong Kong-based company Cathay Pacific has announced the cancellation of most of its scheduled take-off flights before 1700 hours (0900 GMT). Hong Kong Airlines followed suit.

According to the airport authorities, 420 flights had been canceled at dawn. The buses and the subway were operating on minimum service while the ferry services were suspended.

The morning session was canceled on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with the financial center reserving the option to cancel the afternoon session depending on the weather.

Hong Kong is regularly affected by typhoons between July and October, but it is rare for storms to affect it directly.

The most violent occurred in 1962. The eye of typhoon Wanda had passed over the town where gusts of 284 km / h had been recorded. One hundred and thirty people had been killed and thousands of homes had been razed, leaving 72,000 without shelter.

Since then, Hong Kong has adapted to typhoons, for example by ensuring that the highest skyscrapers can bow to the wind. Emergency procedures are strict and typhoons rarely cause death.

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