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Hong Kong shut down by cyclone
2004 07 15

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Hong Kong is bracing itself for a tropical cyclone with millions of people rushing home after the government issued its third highest storm warning.

Just before midday on Friday, the Hong Kong observatory issued a signal 8, which means that winds with speeds of 63 kilometers (39 miles) per hour or more are expected to whip the city of 6.8 million people.

Forecasters also predicted heavy rains and dangerous seas.

When this signal is hoisted, the territory closes down, with government departments, businesses, shops and financial markets shuttering up.

Schools had already been shut down for the day and phone networks were jammed as residents tried to make plans to get home.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong's largest carrier, said services had not been affected as of midday but most ferry services in the port city were expected to stop in the afternoon.

The storm dumped heavy rain on southern Taiwan before switching course and heading towards Hong Kong on Friday morning.

At noon, tropical storm Kompasu was centered 60 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong and was forecast to move west-northwest at about 20 kilometers per hour towards the Pearl River estuary.

Kompasu will come very close to Hong Kong in the afternoon and the winds are expected to reach gale force, the observatory said.

Strong winds, up to 70 kilometers per hour, have already begun to affect the harbor.

Six or seven typhoons or severe storms pass near Hong Kong each year, but direct hits are rare.

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