Hong Kong launches mass evacuation as Typhoon Utor shuts down region

 

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated after a powerful typhoon thundered into southern China shutting down the financial centre of Hong Kong and sinking a cargo ship.

Packing high winds and torrential rain, Typhoon Utor forced the closure of schools, offices, shopping centres and building sites in cities along its path north west across Guangdong province.

More than 60,000 people were evacuated in the city of Maoming alone, while another 98,000 were moved to safety to the south on the island province of Hainan, where 26,000 fishing boats were also ordered to shelter in harbours. Flights and ferry services were suspended on the island, stranding thousands of travellers.

There were no reports of damage or injuries on the mainland due to the storm, which had sustained winds of 90mph.

In Hong Kong offices, schools and courts were shut and the stock market halted trading, bringing an eerie calm to the normally busy southern Chinese commercial hub. More than 350 flights were cancelled or delayed and bus and commuter ferry services were curtailed.

Helicopter search and rescue teams from Hong Kong and Guangdong province rescued 21 crew from the Trans Summer, a bulk carrier, after it started listing in waters south west of Hong Kong.

Six people in Hong Kong were reported injured. Strong winds blew down trees, but otherwise the city emerged largely unscathed.

Utor was the strongest typhoon of the year before it crossed the Philippines earlier this week, leaving at least seven people dead and four missing. One woman in north-eastern Isabela province was seen on camera being swept away by a raging river. Her body was found later.

Dozens of fishermen were missing after the storm, but most have since returned home. Rescuers were still struggling to reach at least three isolated towns in the hardest-hit Aurora province, where the typhoon slammed ashore.

AP

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