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Update: Hong Kong lowers storm signal as typhoon Hato makes landfall

[HONG KONG] Severe Typhoon Hato made landfall in China after it lashed Hong Kong with heavy winds and rain, forcing the city to issue the highest storm warning and its stock exchange to cancel trading for the day.

The Hong Kong Observatory issued the No 8 signal at 2.10 pm, after hoisting signal No 10 for five hours. It's the first time since Typhoon Vicente in July 2012 that the city raised its highest-level warning. The last time Hong Kong had to cancel full-day trading was in October 2016, when Typhoon Haima forced schools to close and airlines to suspend flights.

Severe Typhoon Hato has made landfall over Zhuhai of southern China, the Observatory said. The storm is moving away from Hong Kong and weakening gradually. Hato, named after the Japanese word for pigeon, is forecast to move west-northwest at about 25km per hour into inland Guangdong. Trading in Hong Kong will likely resume on Thursday.

About 450 flights have been canceled at Hong Kong International Airport as of 11 am, according to the Airport Authority. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said a majority of flights to and from Hong Kong between 6 am and 5 pm on Wednesday have been suspended. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has to stay in Hangzhou for another day due to flight cancellations, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

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Most businesses closed and much of the city's public transport shut down with the initial hoisting of the No 8 signal. Earlier today, MTR Corp canceled train services in open sections and maintained limited services underground on an adjusted schedule. All schools were closed.

The storm also affected some Hong Kong-listed companies that were due to report earnings on Wednesday. Health and Happiness H&H International Holdings Ltd and K Wah International Holdings Ltd are among those that canceled their press conferences. Sinotrans Ltd postponed a briefing to Thursday. Zhou Hei Ya International Holdings C., however, decided to hold its investor presentation and press conference as planned.

The Observatory warned of "flash floods" due to the heavy rains. Waves of "a few feet high" were seen near the shore at the residential area Heng Fa Chuen on Hong Kong Island, with water rushing into building lobbies and carparks, according to RTHK. Residents in fishing village Tai O were urged to take shelter as the Observatory said there may be "waist-deep flooding" in the low-lying areas.

The government opened 26 temporary shelters and 279 people had sought refuge. As of 11 am, a total of 34 people sought medical treatment at public hospitals. There were 182 reports of fallen trees. Several trees fell onto a highway in the Wan Chai business district, while traffic remained light as most people weren't going to work. Some still made it to the office.

Clement Cheng, a Hong Kong-based trader at RBC Investment Management Co, went to work by car at 7.40 am and found the office empty except himself and an analyst.

"I need to get into the office to manage some regional orders," said Cheng. "It is super windy in Hong Kong. I can feel my apartment moved a bit this morning."

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