(Adds details on disaster relief operations, railway inspections)
SHANGHAI, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Shanghai and the neighbouring Chinese province of Zhejiang are bracing for a strong typhoon that is expected to hit this weekend, with authorities making contingency plans to shut ports and to evacuate residents along the coast if necessary.
Typhoon Muifa is forecast to hit Shanghai, and a swathe of the eastern coast including the port city of Ningbo to the south, on Sunday with gusts of around 180 km/h (113 mph), according to Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com).
China has issued an orange alert to ships and fishing vessels, its second-highest alert level, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, adding that Muifa was expected to be one of the most powerful typhoons to hit China in recent years.
Shanghai is the world’s largest container port. An official at one of the city’s ports, Waigaoqiao, told Reuters the port authority was monitoring the situation and would close operations if the typhoon’s impact was serious enough.
Civil affairs agencies in Shanghai and several provinces have been warned to monitor the situation closely and prepare for timely disaster relief operations.
Jinbao, a local newspaper in Zhejiang province run by Xinhua, said authorities in the port city of Ningbo had ordered fishing, passenger and other vessels to dock by Thursday evening because of the large waves expected.
Provincial authorities were also preparing for the possibility of having to evacuate people from coastal areas, according to a notice on the central government’s web portal, www.gov.cn.
Meteorological authorities in Zhejiang province predicted that Muifa would likely make landfall in the eastern part of the province on Saturday night and cause significant damage, Xinhua said.
The Shanghai railway authorities have also set up a team to inspect high-speed railway facilities, stating that some train services may run behind schedule or even be halted if the storm is too severe, Xinhua said.
Muifa, which was approaching Okinawa in southwestern Japan as of 0930 GMT on Thursday, prompted Japanese refiner Nansei Sekiyu KK, wholly owned by Brazil’s state-run Petrobras , to suspend marine operations at its 100,000 barrel-per-day Nishihara refinery from late Wednesday. (Reporting by Jason Subler and Fayen Wong; Additional reporting by Jacqueline Wong; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)