Hong Kong braces itself for first storm this year as Merbok approaches

A pedestrian steps into a puddle while crossing a road as it rains in Hong Kong on May 24, 2017.
A pedestrian steps into a puddle while crossing a road as it rains in Hong Kong on May 24, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (Bloomberg) – Hong Kong braced itself for its first typhoon this year, as Tropical Storm Merbok lashed the financial center with rain and wind.

The Hong Kong Observatory hoisted Signal No. 8 at 5.20pm local time. and said the warning would remain in force tonight.

At 7pm, Tropical Storm Merbok was centred about 50km south-southeast of Hong Kong and is forecast to move north-northwest at about 20 kilometres per hour in the general direction of the city. It’s expected to make landfall over the vicinity of the Pearl River Estuary around midnight and will dissipate gradually on Tuesday (June 13), the Observatory said.

All ferry and some bus services in the city will be suspended by around 8pm. The government has opened temporary shelters.

While Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd continued its anniversary cocktail reception at a hotel in the city, an after-hours futures trading session was scrapped due to the storm signal.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd canceled or delayed 27 flights to and from Hong Kong on Monday and Tuesday. Airport Authority Hong Kong estimated 41 flights were cancelled and another 275 delayed as of 7pm.

Workers in the city’s Central business district started rushing home earlier in the day when the Observatory warned it might raise the storm signal. 

While trains stepped up their frequency in the evening, they were still unable to meet passenger demand. Hong Kong’s central station thronged with passengers heading home at around 6pm and some weren’t able to get to the platforms due to the crowd.

More than 300 people were earlier in queue for ferries to Discovery Bay, a residential area on one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.