Tropical storm Mulan slams Guangdong with rains on way to Covid-stricken Hainan

Heavy rain in Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on Aug 9, 2022, as Mulan edged closer to the city. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Tropical storm Mulan made landfall in China’s manufacturing hub of Guangdong late Wednesday (Aug 10) morning, forcing some trains and ferries to suspend operations and potentially disrupting Hainan island’s efforts to contain a Covid-19 outbreak.

Some trains going through Zhanjiang city in Guangdong province will be halted in the next few days, while passenger liner services at ports, including Nansha and Shekou in Shenzhen, will be partially suspended.

Hengqin port suspended customs clearance service for travellers between Zhuhai and neighboring Macau Wednesday morning, while the Lianhua bridge that connects the two cities was closed off.

Both resumed operations in the afternoon as the storm weakened.

Mulan, China’s seventh powerful storm of the year, was last observed around Xuwen county in Zhanjiang, with wind speeds of up to 45 kmh.

It was expected to move at 15 kmh toward the north-west, the National Meteorological Centre said. The centre issued a yellow alert earlier in the day, the third highest in a four-tier, coloured system.

The weather centre expects torrential rains to hit the southern part of Guangdong, neighboring Guangxi province, as well as Hainan.

That could put the tropical island in the line of fire, as the local government battles a Covid-19 outbreak that has stranded tens of thousands of tourists, and could impede mass testing efforts towards achieving zero community spread by Friday (Aug 12).

China’s southern and eastern coastal cities, which host some of the world’s busiest container ports, are often impacted in the summer by tropical storms that shut operations and delay transport, posing a threat to global supply chains.

Yantian port in Shenzhen had to halt some container services earlier in the week due to Mulan, before announcing that operations would resume from 8pm Wednesday.

Gale-force winds are expected until the early afternoon on Thursday (Aug 11) affecting most of the South China Sea, Qiongzhou Strait, Beibu Bay and Guangdong coast, Guangxi coast, Hainan, as well as the waters near the Spratly islands, Paracel islands and Macclesfield Bank.

China has activated a level-four emergency response for dangerous winds and heavy rains.

In Macau, weather forecasters upgraded the warning signal as Mulan approached. Schools were suspended for the day.

Mulan could hamper coronavirus testing on Hainan, which is trying to curb an outbreak that has stranded peak-season tourists in what is known as the "Hawaii of China".

A large contingent of health workers has been sent to the island to help. Hainan reported 1,314 symptomatic and 585 asymptomatic Covid-19 cases between Aug 1 and Aug 9.

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