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Twenty dead after powerful typhoon lashes Hong Kong

A man tries to get back into his car as a wave surges past a barrier on the shore during Typhoon Usagi in Hong Kong on Sept. 22. Tyrone Siu / Reuters

At least 20 people were killed as a powerful typhoon pounded southern China, toppling trees and creating chaos across Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

Typhoon Usagi had weakened from the “severe” category as it moved inland, making landfall late Sunday about 85 miles north of Hong Kong at Shanwei, and skirting the city as it crossed the coastal area of Guangdong Province, according to a bulletin from the Hong Kong Observatory.

Dark clouds hang low over Hong Kong's Victoria Habour Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Usagi, the year's most powerful typhoon had Hong Kong in its cross-hair on Sunday after sweeping past the Philippines and Taiwan. AP Photo/Vincent Yu

The typhoon at about 3 a.m. local time Monday (3 p.m. ET) was 60 miles north-northwest and moving away from Hong Kong as it weakened into less-powerful, but still potentially-damaging cyclone.

Storm alerts remained in effect overnight as wind speeds topped 60 mph and heavy rains battered the Asian financial center.

The 20 deaths were on China's southern coast, television reports said, including 13 fatalities in Shanwei in the eastern reaches of Guangdong Province, according to Reuters.

On Saturday, more than 370 flights were canceled at Hong Kong airport, and scores of others were delayed. The severe storm also shut down passenger ferry service, commercial shipping traffic and closed schools across the Pearl River Delta area.

The Hong Kong stock exchange was expected to be closed for at least part of the day if the storm signal remained in effect by 7 a.m. on Monday.

More than 80,000 people were moved to safety in Fujian province, where flooding was reported, and at least 50,000 disaster-relief workers were deployed, according to Reuters. Late Sunday, the storm had already knocked out power to some 170,000 households in Fujian province, the news agency reported.

In Guangdong province, a center for Chinese nuclear power, the Daya Bay nuclear power plant east of Hong Kong initiated emergency plans, according to Reuters. Four of the six power generating units at the plant had been ordered to operate at reduced load.

Usagi lashed Taiwan on Saturday after slamming into the Philippines' northernmost islands where it cut communication and power lines and triggered landslides.

Reuters contributed to this report