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Storms drench and kill across Asia

Debris
Workers at Hong Kong's seafood market clear debris scattered by the storm  


HONG KONG, China -- A severe tropical storm has hit China, knocking down hundreds of houses, flooding farmlands and reportedly leaving one person dead Friday after killing more than 70 in the Philippines.

Hong Kong suffered flooding, uprooted trees, transportation delays and lost business -- with the stock market and numerous companies shut by the storm that had churned past southern Taiwan on Thursday, killing a man who was swept into the ocean.

Despite weakening, the storm virtually shut down bustling Hong Kong and still carried the potential for heavy flooding across the region, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.

Utor was downgraded to a severe tropical storm late Thursday before it made landfall.

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The major threat continues to be a heavy, persistent rain over the rugged terrain and because the system has slowed, the storm dumped more on the region.

Heavy falls were expected to continue through most of the weekend.

Meteorologists warned of the threat of urban flooding, coastal flooding and flash flooding. Mudslides also are possible.

As a result, most of Hong Kong was closed for business Friday with government offices, the courts and the stock market all shutting down. Retail businesses began to open Friday afternoon.

Air traffic was at a standstill midday Friday at Hong Kong International Airport, but a limited flight schedule was expected to resume.

In neighboring Guangdong province, the government has put its coastal region on alert.

No storm-related deaths were reported but officials said losses in the Shanwei area in the heavily populated province, where the storm landed early on Friday, amounted to 216 million yuan ($26 million) by midday.

Crops and fruit farms were devastated and heavy damage was reported to fisheries, roads, power lines, dams and irrigation facilities, an official with Shanwei's Flood Relief Command said.

Shanwei residents said the city of 2.5 million had been lashed by driving rain throughout the morning.

"There have been reports of battered coastal dams, seaside villages surrounded by floods and crops swept away. We are still counting the damage," a flood relief official said.

Over 70 dead in the Philippines

Mud
Rescuers lift a mud-covered man following a landslide in the Philippines  

Earlier, Typhoon Utor lashed southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines, driving thousands from their homes and triggering mudslides.

In the northern Philippines, more than 50 people have been confirmed dead with about 100 injured, says CNN's Mike Chinoy in Hong Kong.

Transportation and communications were disrupted in Taiwan, too, though the island was spared the full force of the storm. Taiwan reported only one death as a result of the storm and half a dozen injuries.

Bands of heavy rain were continuing to sweep across Luzon, the northernmost main island in the Philippines, southern Taiwan and southeastern China. Utor was downgraded to a severe tropical storm as it made landfall in China, and Hong Kong meteorologists reduced the warning to a number 3 gale -- which shut down most of the normally bustling financial hub.

"It may be downgraded but it's packing considerable punch," said Chinoy.

Financial institutions, including Hong Kong's stock and gold markets, were unable to open as scheduled and it was unclear by late morning whether they would be able to do any business at all Friday.

Flight chaos

Cancelled
Utor forced airlines to cancel scores of flights in Hong Kong  

Forecasters say Hong Kong is likely to be pummeled by rain for the rest of Friday and into the weekend, Chinoy said.

At least 35 flights were canceled and 59 were delayed from Thursday night to early Friday at Chek Lap Kok airport, where only three jets landed by midmorning, Hong Kong's Airport Authority said.

The territory's largest carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways, said it would probably have to cancel or delay up to 20 incoming flights.

Cathay Pacific also warned that some long-haul inbound flights might have to land in other cities.

The cancellations came Friday as relations with the union looked set to deteriorate after the airline sacked three pilots on Thursday.

Cathay's pilots began a work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday in a dispute over wages and rostering.







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