Tropical storm shuts financial markets, disrupts flights

Nearly 600 flights have been cancelled or delayed.
Nearly 600 flights have been cancelled or delayed.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG • A tropical storm shut Hong Kong's financial markets for the first time in almost two years, adding extra drama to a city that has been racked by protests for weeks.

The Hong Kong Observatory raised the storm signal to No. 8 - the third-highest number on its scale - at 1.40pm local time. That prompted the city's stock exchange to suspend trading 15 minutes later, as required by its rules. The Hang Seng Index, which normally closes after 4pm, ended the session 1.3 per cent lower.

Nearly 600 flights have been cancelled or delayed.

Tropical Storm Wipha was centred about 320km south to south-west of Hong Kong at 7pm local time, and forecast to move towards the vicinity of western Guangdong province, said the observatory.

Wipha is now at its closest to the city, meaning storm signal No. 8 is expected to remain in force for most of the evening, it said.

As of 8pm local time, 16 people had sought treatment at public hospitals, the government said, adding that it had received 10 reports of fallen trees and one each of landslides and flooding.

The city's airport authority said 25 flights had been cancelled and another 562 delayed. People rushed to get on trains before the suspension of bus and ferry services, while roads were jammed with traffic as workers sought to get home early.

Train services continued and MTR Corp said trains on the Island Line, which cuts through the city's financial centre, were running at four-minute intervals. The Hong Kong-Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan was temporarily closed.

Most stores in Hong Kong's central district shut by early afternoon, with many employees seen taping their windows.

Casinos remained open in Macau, with representatives for Wynn Macau and Galaxy Entertainment Group saying operations were carrying on as normal.

Last September, resorts were hurt after Typhoon Mangkhut ripped through the world's biggest gaming hub, forcing a temporary shutdown of casinos for the first time since licences were given out in 2002.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2019, with the headline 'Tropical storm shuts financial markets, disrupts flights'. Print Edition | Subscribe