Dozens of people were injured and at least three dead after a powerful typhoon barrelled into Hong Kong and the nearby city of Macau before hitting China on Wednesday, reports said.
Thousands were evacuated from their homes in southern China as Typhoon Hato - the worst storm in the region for five years - slammed into the mainland after flooding streets and uprooting trees in Hong Kong.
The maximum category 10 storm had forced Hong Kong’s stock market to close and caused at least 400 flights at the city’s airport to be cancelled.
Only one service - a KLM flight from Amsterdam – landed on Wednesday morning when the storm’s force was at its height, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper.
Packing winds of up to 155 kmh (95 mph), the typhoon shattered windows on the city’s skyscrapers, flooded low-lying areas and blew over public bins across the financial hub.
The No. 10 signal has only been hoisted 14 other times since 1946, or one for every 72 storms, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. The last time it went up was for Typhoon Vicente in 2012.
Hato also brought large-scale power cuts to the gambling hub of Macau, where hotels were turning away customers because of power issues, the SCMP said.
Reports in the former Portuguese colony said three people had been killed, while Reuters said 34 were injured in Hong Kong.
The centre of the storm skirted around Hong Kong, but was close enough to be considered a direct hit under the city’s storm warning system.
However, it made landfall at midday (05.00am GMT) at Zhuhai, in China’s Guangdong province, Xinhua said.
The Chinese state news agency also said that “thousands of people were evacuated” as the storm approached, and that 400 fishermen were told to return to harbour.
“Guangdong's flood relief agency said Hato could cause severe damage because it is growing stronger as it nears shore,” the news agency said.
“The typhoon also comes at a time when the Guangdong coast was busy with tourists and fish farm workers.”