BEIJING – Tropical Storm Ma-on was gaining strength as it headed for Hong Kong and other parts of southeastern China on Wednesday after displacing thousands in the Philippines.
Several cities in Guangdong province suspended high-speed rail and ferry service and evacuated workers on offshore projects. The airport in Shenzhen, a Chinese tech center that borders Hong Kong, canceled all flights from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The Hong Kong Observatory raised its No. 8 signal Wednesday evening, warning that winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometers per hour or more were expected. A No. 8 signal is typically raised when a gale or storm is expected to hit Hong Kong.
The observatory also warned of flooding in low-lying areas and advised people to stay away from the shoreline, though Ma-on is not forecast to make a direct impact on the southern Chinese financial hub with its population of 7.4 million.
The storm is expected to make landfall around noon Thursday on the coast of Guangdong, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Hong Kong, and weaken as it moves inland toward the Guangxi region, Yunnan province and northern Vietnam, China's National Meteorological Center said on its website.
The storm’s arrival comes as many parts of central and western China are facing severe drought brought on by temperatures that broke records for August, withering crops and endangering drinking water supplies.
In the key agricultural province of Sichuan, cloud seeding is being used to try to promote rainfall. Hydropower plants that generate around 80% of the province's electricity have operated at far-reduced capacity, forcing rolling brownouts and the cutting of factory work hours.
Ma-on weakened slightly after barreling across mountainous northern provinces in the Philippines, where at least three people were left injured by trees knocked down by the high winds. Classes were suspended and government offices closed in the capital Manila.