Hong Kong warned it may raise its storm alert to near the maximum as hurricane-force winds from Typhoon Koinu draw closer to the city than previously forecast.
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong warned it may raise its storm alert to near the maximum as hurricane-force winds from Typhoon Koinu draw closer to the city than previously forecast.
“Koinu is a mature typhoon with its eyewall edging closer to the seas south of the territory,” the Hong Kong Observatory said in a 3:45 p.m. update. “Gale winds are already prevailing in many places in the southern part of Hong Kong and winds may strengthen further.”
The typhoon, which has 145 kilometer per hour (90 mph) winds near its center, will be closest to the financial hub during Sunday night, the Observatory said, adding it may issue higher warning signals if Koinu’s hurricane-strength winds continue to move closer to the city, it said.
The weather agency earlier issued its No. 8 warning, the third highest on its scale of five and a signal for most public transport to stop. The next level is 9, which means gale force winds are increasing significantly in strength. That’s followed by 10 — defined as hurricane-force winds with a sustained speed of 118 kph and gusts that may exceed 220 kph.
Hong Kong raised its No. 10 signal last month for the first time in five years when Typhoon Saola pummeled the territory. The last time the city issued its maximum hurricane warning twice in the same year was in 1964, when it was hit by typhoons Ruby and Dot.
Koinu, which means puppy in Japanese, is forecast to skirt about 70 kph south of the Hong Kong Observatory headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui, the weather agency said. Maximum sustained winds recorded at Tate’s Cairn — a peak in Kowloon — were 92 kph in mid-afternoon, with gusts exceeding 118 kph, it said.
The typhoon’s approach comes after the city experienced repeated bouts of extreme weather in recent weeks. In addition to Saola, record-breaking rain caused by the remnants of Typhoon Haikui flooded streets, submerged vehicles and triggered landslides. A lack of forewarning about the intensity of the rain prompted public criticism of authorities.
Hong Kong insurance claims caused by natural disasters may climb to a record and exceed $500 million this year should Koinu bring more heavy rain and cause flood losses, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Steven Lam said in a note.
Hong Kong’s Weather Is Getting Hotter, Wetter and Wilder
The unique topography of Hong Kong — roads and buildings cut into steep hillsides — makes the city vulnerable to flooding and landslides from torrential summer rains that have steadily intensified over time due to climate change.
At 4 p.m., Koinu was centered about 80 km south of the Observatory and was forecast to move west or west-northwest slowly toward to the Pearl River Estuary adjacent to Hong Kong, the city’s weather agency said. Heavy squally showers were expected Sunday and Monday, it said.
Most of the city’s main entertainment centers including Disneyland and Ocean Park announced they were closed Sunday because of the weather, while the Hong Kong Jockey Club canceled its horse-race meeting in Sha Tin. Authorities said a total of 27 temporary shelters operated by the District Offices would be open for people in need.
The Observatory didn’t provide an estimate for when the city may lower its storm signals. If No. 8 or higher are still in place in the morning, schools will remain closed along with many businesses, while no stock market trading would take place until the warning is lowered to below 8.
Typhoon Koinu earlier brushed past the southern tip of Taiwan, killing one and injuring more than 300 people, according to official figures. Despite projections by regional observatories that the storm would continue to weaken after passing Taiwan, Koinu rebuilt its eyewall and regained strength.
In nearby Macau, authorities said Sunday they may raise the current No. 3 signal to No. 8 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
–With assistance from Jane Zhang and Shiyin Chen.
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