HONG KONG (Reuters) - A typhoon struck the south coast of China on Wednesday, forcing airlines to cancel flights and halting stock exchange trading in the financial center of Hong Kong after leaving a trail of destruction in the Philippines.
The Hong Kong weather observatory raised its No. 8 tropical cyclone signal early in the day, its third highest alert, but had lowered it by the afternoon as Typhoon Utor moved inland west of the territory.
Heavy rains and gale force winds lashed Hong Kong and uprooted trees, with heavy disruptions to shipping services and flights. Markets, schools and businesses closed for the day.
China's State Oceanic Administration issued a first-level emergency response late on Tuesday and fishing boats and other vessels were called back to port in western Guangdong.
Nearly 200 workers were rescued from an artificial island on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge as conditions deteriorated, local police said.
On the tropical resort island of Hainan, west of the storm's path, 27,000 boats returned to port while more than 98,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
As of late Tuesday, over 3,000 passengers were stranded at Sanya and Haikou airports on Hainan. Some train and shipping services were also suspended, with waves of over 10 meters (32 feet) expected in some coastal zones.
Utor was the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, killing six people and displacing over 30,000 families as it caused landslides and floods and disrupted power and communications links.
Cyclones are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength from the warm waters and dissipating over land.
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Reporting by James Pomfret, Anne Marie Roantree, Venus Wu and Ben Blanchard.; Editing by Nick Macfie