Typhoon Chanchu has spared Hong Kong as it moves toward the coast of southeastern China.

China's official Xinhua News Agency says more than 180,000 people have been evacuated from coastal areas of Guangdong province as a precaution.

Provincial authorities say 25,000 ships were called back to port, and ferry services in the region were suspended.

Forecasters say the typhoon is likely to hit land in northeastern Guangdong late Wednesday or early Thursday. Chanchu is then expected to move up the coast toward Fujian province, passing very close to the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan authorities have also issued sea and land warnings for the storm.

The Hong Kong Observatory says the center of the storm was 240 kilometers east-southeast of Hong Kong at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. GMT). It was forecast to move north-north-east at 22 kilometers-an-hour.

Experts say Chanchu is the strongest storm ever to enter the South China Sea during May. But, the typhoon has weakened slightly as it moves toward land over lower sea surface temperatures. At last report, Chanchu had maximum winds of 160 kilometers-an-hour.

In Hong Kong, forecasters issued the strong wind signal number three Wednesday morning, which means wind speeds of 41 to 62 kilometers-an-hour were affecting the city. Authorities closed kindergartens and some welfare services, but businesses remained open, and no major damage was reported.

Chanchu killed at least 41 people in the Philippines on Friday and Saturday. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate and landslides destroyed hundreds of homes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.