The powerful storm which intensified on Wednesday after lashing Taiwan and the Philippines, is currently packing winds exceeding 200kph (125mph) and is expected to strike Hong Kong and Guangdong in the next 24 hours.
The typhoon intensified due to the warm waters in the Pacific and was upgraded to the “super typhoon” category 5, which is equivalent to a category 3 hurricane.
China’s National Meteorological Centre issued a typhoon red warning at 6am (2200 GMT) on Thursday, urging residents to prepare for the imminent impact of the storm.
The typhoon’s trajectory poses a significant threat to major cities, including Hong Kong, and manufacturing centres in the nearby Guangdong province.
At its current location about 315km (183miles) southeast of Guangdong province, Typhoon Saola is predicted to move northwest across the South China Sea at a speed of approximately 10kph (6mph).
The National Meteorological Centre forecasts that Saola will make landfall along the coast somewhere from Huilai County in Guangdong to Hong Kong on the afternoon to the night of Friday.
The centre also warned that given its intensity, Saola could rank among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong since 1949.
Super Typhoon #Saola will come very close to striking Hong Kong in the next 24 hours.
Latest forecasts are predicting that the typhoon will weaken slightly as it grazes the coast of Guangdong province, but a direct landfall is still possible. Flooding rains very likely. #台風9号 pic.twitter.com/Mdddl9La3V
— Zoom Earth (@zoom_earth) August 31, 2023
Hong Kong's government has announced a “number 8” strong wind signal to be raised between 2am and 5am on Friday. Hong Kong uses a number scale system of 1 to 10 for such warnings, with 1 being the highest.
The alert will mean the closure of most businesses, including the stock exchange, effectively bringing the city to a standstill.
As a precaution, all schools will remain closed on Friday, despite it being the first day of the term for many students. The city's residents have been rushing to prepare for the storm, leading to crowded fresh food markets and long queues at supermarkets.
Hong Kong's Observatory predicted heavy rain and violent winds, along with a significant rise in water levels until Saturday, potentially causing serious flooding.
Meanwhile, Guangdong's Shenzhen city is also ramping up its preparations by upgrading its typhoon warning level to yellow, and suspending classes at various educational institutions.
China Southern Power Grid is intensifying its equipment inspections and water leakage prevention measures in basement power rooms.
China Railway has taken preventive measures by suspending several major train lines, and Shanghai has halted trains heading towards Guangdong.
Weather officials have also issued warnings about heavy rainfall in parts of Fujian and Guangdong until 8am (0000 GMT) on Friday, with expected downpours ranging from 100 mm to 220 mm (3.9 inches to 8.7 inches) in certain areas.
Earlier, the typhoon brushed through Taiwan and the Philippines, prompting heavy rains and destructive winds, which led to several villages getting evacuated.
Additional reporting by agencies