Hong Kong Braces for Tropical Storm Nalgae

HONG KONG (AP) -- Schools and offices closed and some events were canceled in Hong Kong on Wednesday as Tropical Storm Nalgae swept past south of the city, while a finance conference meant to restore Hong Kong's image as an international business center went ahead.

As the city braced itself, temporary shelters were opened and theme parks were closed. Afternoon trading was suspended in the stock market, and some ferry and bus services were halted. The Hong Kong Jockey Club scrapped the evening's horse races.

The Hong Kong Observatory raised a No. 8 typhoon signal, the third-highest warning under the city's weather system, on Wednesday afternoon as Nalgae's maximum sustained winds hit 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour.

A late afternoon forecast predicted the storm would skirt within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Hong Kong, passing over waters south of the city before making landfall in southern China on Thursday.

While Nalgae was expected to weaken, rain was forecast to become more frequent across the region on Wednesday night.

The No. 8 warning, which prompted workers to return home, was to remain in force until at least 10 p.m. Whether the signal would be downgraded later would hinge on the strength of the storm and its distance from the city, the observatory said.

Nalgae killed more than 130 people in the Philippines days ago before moving closer to China's southeastern and southern coastal regions. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China's rule in 1997.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday declared a state of calamity for six months in four storm-battered regions, including in a five-province Muslim autonomous region in the south, where rescuers continue to search for more villagers feared buried in a huge mudslide in a mountainside community.

The storm, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of the city as of 5 p.m. (0900 GMT), was expected to bring winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometers (40 miles) per hour or more, according to the observatory in Hong Kong.

Residents are urged to stay away from the shoreline and avoid water sport activities, the observatory added.

The government halted various public services, ranging from vaccination and driving license arrangements to child care and elderly centers.

"Nalgae will weaken gradually. However, it will be very close to the vicinity of the Pearl River Estuary tonight," the weather forecaster said.