Highest warning issued in preparation for one of the biggest storms of the year
Relevant departments from Guangdong province are going all-out to prepare for Typhoon Saola after China's national observatory issued a red typhoon warning — the most severe category — on Thursday morning.
Saola, the ninth typhoon this year, was moving at a speed of more than 10 kilometers an hour approaching the Guangdong coastline and the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, and is likely to make landfall between Guangdong's Huilai and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after noon Friday.
Saola's raging storms and strong gales could cause widespread economic losses in Guangdong's eastern and Fujian province's southern coastal areas, authorities warned.
With Saola reclassified as a super typhoon, Guangdong's flood control, drought relief and anti-typhoon headquarters upgraded its anti-typhoon emergency response to Level 1 from Level 3 on Thursday afternoon, and ordered all fishing vessels and the ships operating at sea to return to shelters and all fishermen and offshore workers to go ashore.
The coastal cities and relevant departments have been required to introduce concrete and effective measures to prevent injuries and minimize economic losses.
The Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration has prepared 18 maritime patrol ships, while the Nanhai Rescue Bureau of the Ministry of Transport has also deployed another 13 professional rescue vessels and two helicopters to help cope with any emergencies and rescue those caught out when Saola batters the province.
The central government has sent a special work group to Guangdong to guide the province in preventing disasters, requiring special attention be paid to prevent and handle possible geological hazards, including the collapse of dikes along coastal, rivers and reservoir areas, flooding, mountain torrents, mudflows and landslides.
Zhang Jianyong, an official with the Shenzhen Bureau of Emergency Management, said the bureau has organized various districts and departments to make intensive inspection tours to local rivers, reservoirs and areas where geological hazards might occur to eliminate disaster risks.
"Shenzhen's 685 indoor emergency shelters have been readied and 83 emergency rescue teams are on standby," he said.
Heavy downpours and gales accompanying Saola had already wreaked havoc in major cities on the east coast of Guangdong on Wednesday and Thursday.
Nearly 4,000 trains operating in Guangdong province will suspend operations or make detours to ensure the safety of passengers between Thursday and Sunday.
Passengers can refund their tickets within 30 days, China Railway Guangzhou Group said in a statement.
In addition to the intercity train services in Guangdong, passenger trains operating between Guangzhou South Railway Station and Fuzhou and Zhangzhou in Fujian were temporarily suspended on Thursday, railway authorities said.
High-speed trains on the Guangdong section of the Hangzhou-Shenzhen railway have been suspended starting 4 pm on Thursday while high-speed trains on the Guangdong section of the Beijing-Hong Kong railway will also be suspended starting Friday, railway authorities said.
Meanwhile, some ferry services operating between Pazhou Ferry Terminal, located in the downtown area of Guangzhou's Haizhu district, and the China Hong Kong City Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong International Airport have been suspended beginning Thursday. Ferry services to Hong Kong will be fully suspended on Friday.
Twenty-five ferry services operating in eastern coastal cities, including Huizhou, Shanwei and Shantou, have also been temporarily suspended to avoid marine accidents.
Major cities on Guangdong's eastern coast experienced heavy rainfall on Wednesday and Thursday, forcing all coastal scenic spots and swimming beaches to close temporarily to ensure the safety of tourists and swimmers, authorities said.
Lin Juntao, a tourist in Shanwei, said the city's coastal scenic areas were closed on Thursday.
"The sea was rough, with strong gales, and tourists were persuaded to leave the scenic areas to avoid accidents," he said.
In Fengshun county, Meizhou city, a total of 447 residents had been evacuated and relocated after three mountain torrents were reported on Wednesday.
Education departments in many coastal cities have asked schools and kindergartens to postpone the start of the autumn semester, which usually start on Sept 1, to next Monday.