HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong battened down Wednesday as Severe Typhoon Utor forced the closure of the city's financial market and schools and disrupted hundreds of flights, after leaving six dead in the Philippines.
Gusts of more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour were recorded, with rain lashing down, as the Hong Kong Observatory hoisted a "Number 8" storm warning in the early hours -- the third highest level.
As the typhoon skirted the city about 240 kilometres to the southwest, the observatory downgraded the warning in the afternoon to "Number 3", indicating strong winds.
Damage was limited with no landslides reported, but the winds blew down a number of trees and signboards, and left bamboo scaffolding swaying.
The Airport Authority said about one third of daily flights were disrupted, with 110 cancelled and another 241 delayed.
Ferry services to outlying islands and mainland China were halted in the morning, stranding passengers at various terminals.
A government spokesman said six people were treated in public hospitals for storm-related injuries and there were six cases of minor flooding.
Overnight the government opened 17 temporary shelters, with dozens of people seeking refuge.
The city's streets were noticeably quiet in the morning, with many workers staying home as businesses and schools were shuttered.
But as the storm passed more people could be seen venturing out, umbrellas hoisted, as the city returned to normal.
However, the Hong Kong stock exchange had already cancelled Wednesday's session and schools remained shut for the afternoon.
Utor, which is packing winds of 155 kilometres per hour near its centre, was heading towards the coast of Guangdong province in southeast China at 16 kmh.
It was 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, it reported, with disaster prevention teams requested for the area.
The storm earlier swept across the Philippines, flattening houses and causing flash floods and landslides.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the death toll had risen to six, with five people still missing as rescuers rushed to reach areas isolated by the storm.
Two people were confirmed dead in the central island of Cebu after they were washed away by a flash flood while two fishermen drowned in the eastern town of Casiguran, the hardest hit by the storm, the council said.
In the northern Philippines one man was crushed by a landslide while another man drowned, the council said in a statement.
Five people, mostly fishermen, were listed as missing.
Almost 42,000 people were still homeless in the Philippines after Utor toppled light structures, ripped the roofs off homes and buildings, and inundated farms, the council said. Some towns were cut off by landslides or fallen trees.
As the weather cleared, relief agencies sent workers and supplies to the ravaged towns while heavy equipment was deployed to clear the roads.
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 Philippine weather bureau.