HONG KONG (AP) — The year's most powerful typhoon had Hong Kong in its crosshairs on Sunday after sweeping past the Philippines and Taiwan and pummeling island communities with heavy rains and fierce winds.
Typhoon Usagi was grinding westward and expected to make landfall close to Hong Kong late Sunday or early Monday. Forecasters had warned earlier that the storm posed a "severe threat" to the southern Chinese city.
Usagi was downgraded from a super typhoon on Saturday, when its sustained winds fell below 241 kilometers (150 miles) per hour, after it passed through the Luzon Strait separating the Philippines and Taiwan, likely sparing residents in both places from the most destructive winds near its eye.
In the Philippines, Usagi left at least two dead and two others missing, while in Taiwan nine people were hurt by falling trees on Kinmen island, although rail services in Taiwan were restored on Saturday.
By Sunday morning it was about 370 kilometers (230 miles) east of Hong Kong and moving west at 20 kph (12 mph), the Hong Kong Observatory said. It said the storm would retain maximum sustained winds of 140 kph (88 mph) at 5 a.m. Monday after making landfall overnight. The observatory said it would consider raising the No. 8 storm warning signal later Sunday, after issuing the No. 3 standby signal the day before.
In adjacent Guangdong province in mainland China, the government urged people to prepare for the storm, which was forecast to slam into the manufacturing heartland of the Pearl River Delta as it passed Hong Kong.
Guangdong authorities asked more than 44,000 fishing boats to return to port while neighboring Fujian Province evacuated more than 80,000 people from flood-prone areas and deployed 50,000 disaster-relief workers, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair said flights to and from Hong Kong International Airport would be canceled from 6 p.m. Sunday and resume Monday if conditions permit. China Southern Airlines, based in nearby Guangzhou, also said it was cancelling flights to and from Hong Kong and other places in China, Xinhua said.