HONG KONG: Hong Kong was on Thursday (Sep 13) preparing for Super Typhoon Mangkhut, predicted to make landfall this weekend. It may be the strongest ever tropical storm to lash the city in decades, the Xinhua news agency reported.
With winds that may gust up to 240km/h, Mangkhut is expected to be more powerful than the Super Typhoon Wanda that resulted in heavy casualties in 1962 and the Super Typhoon Hato, which triggered the highest level typhoon warning signal last year.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued a No 3 typhoon signal on Wednesday as winds gathered strength with the tropical storm Barijat. All the warning signals related to Barijat were cancelled early Thursday, but officials warned of a much greater threat from Mangkhut.
According to the observatory, Mangkhut is forecast to move towards the Philippine island of Luzon on Friday and Saturday. Around 10 million people in the Philippines are in the storm's path, and millions more in heavily populated coastal China.
Philippine authorities have started to evacuate thousands of people from coastal areas as winds bore down on the country's main island.
It will be the strongest of 15 storms to have hit the Philippines this year.
"Its track and wind strength near the centre may change under the influence of the terrain of Luzon, but it is expected to remain in the category of super typhoon after entering the South China Sea," wrote the Hong Kong Observatory on its website.
"Although there are still uncertainties in the subsequent track of Mangkhut and its distance from Hong Kong, Mangkhut’s extensive circulation will bring significantly deteriorating weather to Hong Kong on Sunday with frequent heavy squally showers.
"Seas will be very rough with swells and low-lying areas may be affected by storm surge," it added.
BAD WEATHER PLANS IN HONG KONG
The Hong Kong government convened Wednesday afternoon an inter-departmental meeting that involved 30 government bureaus, departments and organisations.
They discussed response plans, preventive measures and logistics support, among other things.
Security Secretary John Lee has directed all emergency response departments to have their deployment and response plans ready.
Social media users and radio commentators in Hong Kong said they were stocking up on food and supplies after the observatory warned residents to prepare for the storm, saying it posed a "considerable threat".
Local media reported a price surge on everyday items in Hong Kong as residents began preparing for the worst.
Ms Phoebe Wong, 47, a field sales supervisor at Procter & Gamble said her family has stocked up on some food in preparation of the typhoon.
"We have stocked up on some food but not much as some shops will still be open," Ms Wong told Channel NewsAsia.
"My sister has also placed the tape across her windows to prevent the glass from shattering everywhere if it does break," she added.
Shoppers were stocking up on fruits and vegetables, as well as fish and meat, with many stores selling out their wares earlier than usual, according to the South China Morning Post.
The newspaper also reported residents planning flood barriers such as sandbags, boards and brick walls to protect their homes and shops.
Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific said on Wednesday its flight operations "will likely deteriorate, with flight delays and cancellations expected this coming weekend".
"Service resumption will possibly be slow after Typhoon Mangkhut passes through," its website stated. "We strongly request passengers travelling on these dates, and whose bookings were made on cathaypacific.com or our mobile app, to rebook their journey."
Several other Hong Kong-based airlines have announced a waiver for rebooking fees.