Mass flight cancellations in Hong Kong as Typhoon Hato approaches

The No. 8 Gale or Storm Signal may be increased around midnight, it said, after the Strong Wind Signal No. 3 was issued at 6:20pm.
The No. 8 Gale or Storm Signal may be increased around midnight, it said, after the Strong Wind Signal No. 3 was issued at 6:20pm.PHOTO: EPA

HONG KONG (AFP, Bloomberg) - Widespread flight cancellations were set to bring chaos to Hong Kong’s busy international airport as Typhoon Hato churns towards the city Tuesday (Aug 22).

The weather observatory said Hato, named after the Japanese word for pigeon, would pass within 100 kilometres (62 miles) of Hong Kong Wednesday morning, “posing considerable threat” to the territory.  It warned of strong winds, rough seas and possible flooding due to heavy rain.  

Flag carrier Cathay Pacific said almost all its flights between 6:00 am and 5:00 pm local time Wednesday would be axed. Hong Kong Airlines has also cancelled all its flights from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm and other carriers have already posted cancellations to their schedules.  

The Hong Kong Airport Authority said passengers should confirm their flights before heading to the airport.  

“As typhoon Hato gradually approaches, flights at the Hong Kong International Airport will be affected all day tomorrow,” it said.  Cathay said wind speed and direction was “severely impacting flight operations” in a statement on its website, although it added operations remained normal Tuesday night.

 

The observatory raised its Typhoon 3 warning Tuesday evening, triggered when wind speeds are expected to hit between 41 and 62 kilometres per hour.  It predicted it would raise it to a Typhoon 8, the third-highest warning level, around midnight.  

The storm may also stop trading in the world's fourth-largest equity market. Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. will cancel pre-market trading if the No. 8 signal is in force between 7am and 9am, according to its trading rules.

The morning session will be scrapped if the warning is still in effect at 9 am and trading will be closed for the day if not lifted by noon. The last time the city had to scrap full-day trading was in October 2016, when Typhoon Haima prompted schools to close and airlines to suspend flights.

The observatory warned that weather in Hong Kong is deteriorating gradually and there will be heavy squally showers. There may be serious flooding in some low-lying areas as the storm coincides with a high tide on Wednesday morning.

People stuck at home may have to fend for themselves. Food delivery service provider Foodpanda said in a statement to clients that orders will be canceled if the No. 8 signal is still up before 8 am on Wednesday.

Hong Kong is regularly hit by typhoons between July and October.  The city saw its strongest storm in 1962 when the eye of typhoon Wanda passed over and gusts of 284 kilometres per hour were recorded.  It killed 130 people and destroyed thousands of residential huts, leaving 72,000 people homeless.  

Since then, Hong Kong has adapted to typhoons, including making sure its highest commercial skyscrapers can sway in the wind, and they now rarely cause deaths.