Typhoon Usagi lashes Taiwan, threatens China, Hong Kong

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Super Typhoon Usagi, the world’s strongest storm this year, lashed Taiwan with rain and wind as it neared the island, cutting electricity and forcing evacuations while disrupting cross-strait shipping with China.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau Friday issued land and sea warnings, advising people to stay indoors as the storm approached the island’s southeast. As of 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Taipei, 3,000 people had been evacuated, the Central Emergency Operation Center said on its website. More than 88,000 households were without electricity as of 5 p.m., state-run Taiwan Power said.

Usagi will probably make landfall on the central-eastern coast of China’s Guangdong province sometime from tomorrow afternoon to the following morning, China’s Meteorological Administration said in a statement posted on its website Saturday.

At 5 p.m. Taipei time, the storm was 120 kilometers, or 75 miles, southwest of Taiwan’s southern tip, the island’s weather bureau said. Usagi, moving west-northwest at 19 kilometers an hour, is forecast to be 510 kilometers west of Taiwan’s southern tip at 5 p.m. today. Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 173 kilometers an hour and gusts as high as 209 kilometers an hour, according to the bureau.

Shipping transportation between China and Taiwan was partially suspended as Usagi heads toward China’s coast, the official Xinhua news agency reported. All lines from Quanzhou to Kinmen were canceled Saturday and most from Xiamen to Kinmen were halted, Xinhua said.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong’s largest airline, and its unit Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd. will stop Hong Kong operations from 6 p.m. today through Sept. 23, as the storm affects the city, the companies said in separate statements Saturday.

Taiwan canceled 82 domestic and international flights today and 33 were delayed, the emergency operation center said.

Usagi is the most powerful storm system globally this year by wind speed, Cheng Ming-Dean, director of Taiwan’s weather bureau forecast center, said by phone from Taipei Friday. At its current maximum sustained wind speed, Usagi is equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, meaning “extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage,” according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center website.

An average of seven typhoons are monitored by Taiwan authorities every year, with the greatest frequency from July through September, according to data from Taiwan’s weather bureau. Usagi would be the fourth typhoon to hit the island this year, it said.

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