FUZHOU/GUANGZHOU - Boats were recalled to port, people evacuated and flights cancelled across south China on Friday as Typhoon Megi, possibly the strongest to hit China this year, neared.
Megi was 250 kilometers south of Shantou City, Guangdong Province, at 2 pm, according to the National Meteorological Center.
Packing winds of 43 meters per second near its center, the typhoon is weakening and heading north at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour.
It is forecast to land somewhere between Huilai, in Guangdong, and Xiamen, in Fujian Province, on Saturday.
In Shantou, a city in the east of Guangdong near Fujian, 42 flights were cancelled, affecting 4,000 passengers.
All primary and middle schools in Chaozhou, near neighboring Fujian, suspended classes on Friday and during the weekend.
Ports in Shenzhen city were closed.
In Guangzhou, Guangdong's capital, services of all passenger liners were suspended.
In Xinyi city, still recovering from the 11th typhoon, Fanapi, when 2,061 people were evacuated, the city government is reinforcing hydro projects in a bid to avert a second disaster.
In the Fujian Province, about 161,800 people were evacuated.
"The typhoon is strong. It is moving slowly, but may bring severe damage to Fujian," warned Sun Chunlan, secretary of the Fujian provincial committee of the Communist Party of China.
Scenic Gulangyu Island, in Xiamen City, was closed to tourists at 10 am Friday, and shipping services were suspended from 1 pm.
The shipping route linking neighboring Quanzhou City and Taiwan's Jinmen was closed. All flights Friday into or out of the airport at Quanzhou were cancelled.
As Megi neared, people in Hong Kong swarmed to the markets to buy food, pushing up prices of vegetables, according to the Wenwei Pao newspaper.
"I am not going out when the gales and heavy rain come," a woman was quoted by Wenwei Pao as saying. She said she had bought food for two days.
Some 290 tourists from the Chinese mainland stranded on mountain roads in Taiwan had been taken to safety, but rescuers are still trying to help 269 others. A bus was buried and 21 tourists were missing in Ilan, where landslides caused by downpours since Thursday blocked roads.
According to experts with the National Meteorological Center, Megi is the world's strongest typhoon this year. Southern provinces, including Hainan, Guangdong, Jiangxi and Fujian, were subject to heavy rain and strong wind warnings.
Hu Situan, vice head of the Guangzhou municipal weather bureau, believed that Megi would not affect the torch relay of the upcoming Asian Games and venues of the event.
"The sailing events shall be held in Shanwei where the equipment might be affected," said Hu. "But most of the venues are in Guangzhou and won't be affected much."