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China's Guangdong, Fujian provinces take early action as Typhoon Saola looms

BEIJING (Reuters) - Typhoon Saola, hundreds of miles from China's coastline, forced provinces to enact emergency response measures on Tuesday and call fishing boats back to ports along the southeastern coast as gale force winds and gusts whipped across the South China Sea.

Guangdong province issued a heightened emergency warning for strong winds coming from the bands of Typhoon Saola, and Fujian province maintained a Level IV emergency response warning, calling all fishing vessels back to port, according to state media.

Saola also forced Fujian's Xiamen city to suspend some passenger ferry services, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

The provinces are taking early precautions as the typhoon barrels its way towards China.

There is uncertainty regarding Saola's path, China's national forecaster said, as it is expected to interact with another Typhoon Haikui, which formed in northwestern Pacific on Monday. But there is a danger of it becoming the fourth typhoon to make landfall in China this year.

Currently located about 520 kilometres northeast of the Philippines capital Manila, Saola is expected to move northwest at a speed of about 10 kilometres per hour, building in intensity, and gradually approaching the coast from southern Fujian to central Guangdong, according to CCTV.

It was also forecasted to sweep past southern Taiwan and the Hong Observatory said it would consider issuing warnings later this week.

Taiwan issued a sea warning late on Monday and has already cancelled 23 ferry services to offshore islands. Heavy rain is expected from Wednesday along Taiwan's far southern and southeastern corners.

On July 18, Typhoon Talim became the first typhoon to make landfall this year, and most recently Typhoon Doksuri caused major damage when it struck southeastern China and later dropped historic rains on northern China including Beijing.

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Ethan Wang; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)