by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 13, 2013
Offices and public transport shut down in Hong Kong Wednesday as Typhoon Utor brought gales and heavy rain to the Chinese city after leaving four dead in the Philippines.
Winds gusted over 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour in Hong Kong where rain lashed down throughout the night and into Wednesday, with a "Number 8" tropical cyclone warning issued -- the second highest level.
The government opened 17 temporary shelters and one 26-year-old woman was taken to hospital as a result of the storm, according to the city's hospital authority, which said her condition was stable but had no further details.
Ferry terminals, schools and courts were closed Wednesday morning as Utor skirted 250 kilometres southwest of the city, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
The opening of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was also delayed due to the typhoon.
Utor was heading towards the western coast of Guangdong in southwest China, the observatory said.
Utor is predicted to make landfall on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, according to China's state news agency Xinhua.
Waves as high as 11 metres (36 feet) were expected in the north of the South China Sea from Tuesday night into Wednesday, Xinhua reported, with disaster prevention teams requested for the Guangdong area.
Rescuers in the Philippines searched isolated towns devastated by the typhoon, which hit on Monday, but early preparations appeared to have avoided mass casualties.
The government said four people had been confirmed killed and 11 were missing after Utor, the strongest storm this year, swept across the north of the country.
"Trees have fallen down, roofs have been torn off houses, electric poles and electric towers have collapsed," civil defence office spokesman Reynaldo Balido said, describing chaos from coastal towns to mountain villages hundreds of kilometres apart.
The typhoon hit land in Casiguran, leaving the town of 25,000 largely destroyed but with relatively few casualties, said Eduardo del Rosario, head of the government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
First television footage of the impact there showed barefoot children standing expressionless among broken furniture in the flattened remains of their house.
The footage, taken by an ABS-CBN crew who joined del Rosario on a brief visit, showed roofs blown off entire neighbourhoods with some homes reduced to rubble. Other buildings had windows blown out..
Del Rosario said two out-of-town fishermen who had sought shelter in Casiguran had been killed, while several locals were treated for cuts and other minor injuries.
"They were told to seek shelter in the evacuation centres, but instead these two fishermen slept in their boat. In the morning they were found dead," he told a news conference.
A man drowned and another was buried by a landslide elsewhere on Luzon island, while 11 were missing after the typhoon struck, the disaster agency added.
Hundreds of people die from the roughly 20 typhoons or tropical storms that strike the Philippines each year.
Utor hit land with wind gusts reaching 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour early Monday, making it the strongest storm this year, according to the weather bureau.
Philippine National Red Cross secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang told AFP that people in the worst-hit areas were typhoon veterans.
"They know how to prepare, they know how to check for early warning signs like flood levels," she said.
Nevertheless, more than 30,000 people were in temporary shelters on Tuesday after Utor destroyed more than 2,000 homes, the civil defence office said.
Of the 11 people listed as missing, one was a woman filmed by a television crew as she stood crying for help atop her house that was swept away by a swollen river.
"The community was evacuated before the onslaught of the typhoon but she refused to be evacuated," said Norma Talosig, civil defence chief for the area.
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