Typhoon Utor approaches Hong Kong and South China

HONG KONG Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:12pm EDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Typhoon Utor veered closer to Hong Kong and China's southern coastline on Wednesday after leaving a trail of destruction in the Philippines, where at least six people died.

The weather observatory in the international financial hub was poised to raise its No. 8 tropical cyclone signal early on Wednesday morning, its third highest alert level.

Heavy rain and winds of up to 122 km per hour (76 mph) were recorded in parts of Hong Kong, with a number of flights canceled at the city's international airport.

While financial markets, schools, businesses and non-essential government services close when any No. 8 or above signal is hoisted, the cyclone was not expected to hit Hong Kong directly, but to stray towards the western fringes of China's Guangdong province, nearer to Macau and the island of Hainan.

Should the No. 8 signal remain hoisted until 9 a.m. on Wednesday (0100 GMT), the Hong Kong stock exchange will remain closed for at least part of the day.

As of late Tuesday, more than 3,000 passengers were stranded at Sanya and Haikou airports on Hainan, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

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, displacing over 30,000 families as it caused landslides and floods and disrupted power and communications links.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Kevin Liffey)