BEIJING — A typhoon that had shut down business in the financial center of Hong Kong and sunk a cargo ship weakened into a tropical storm as it churned through southern China on Thursday.

Packing high winds and torrential rain, Typhoon Utor had forced the closure of schools, offices, shopping centers and construction sites in cities along its path northwest across Guangdong province.

Yet only minor damage was reported, a result, state media said, of strict adherence to orders to confine tens of thousands of fishing boats to port and evacuate vulnerable people to shelters.

Thousands of travelers were stranded by the suspension of flights and ferry services, but no deaths or injuries were attributed to the storm.

By Thursday morning, the force of the storm had weakened considerably, with sustained winds at its center falling to speeds of 85 kph (53 mph) as it headed northwest through Guangxi province, about 350 kilometers (215 miles) west of Hong Kong.

Life returned to normal in Hong Kong Thursday, a day after offices, schools and courts were shut and the stock market halted trading, bringing an eerie calm to the normally busy southern Chinese commercial hub.

Flights had been canceled and ferry services curtailed while helicopter search and rescue teams from Hong Kong and Guangdong province rescued 21 crew members from a bulk carrier transporting nickel ore before it sank in waters southwest of Hong Kong

Utor was the world's strongest typhoon of the year before it crossed the Philippines earlier this week, leaving at least eight people dead.

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Associated Press writers Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • A Filipino man ride his bicycle as thick clouds form in Navotas, north of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • A Filipino boy stands as waves hit a wall at a park in Navotas, north of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • Members of the Baguio City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and local police clean up the screen of the City Camp Lagoon Tunnel in Baguio city, as powerful typhoon Utor batters the northern Philippines on Monday Aug. 12, 2013, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rain across mountains, cities and food-growing plains. (AP Photo)

  • The soil is exposed at the site of a landslide in Baguio city as powerful typhoon Utor batters the northern Philippines Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rain across mountains, cities and food-growing plains. (AP Photo)

  • A Filipino man pedals his pedicab during a brief rainfall at Navotas, north of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • A Filipino woman holds a baby during a brief rainfall in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • Fishing boats sit lined up in the suburbs of Manila due to Typhoon Utor off the northern coast of Luzon island on August 12, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents wade through ankle-deep water along a flooded stretch of road as heavy rains brought on by Typhoon Utor hit the suburbs of Manila on August 12, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Young people play in the waves brought on by Typhoon Utor as the ocean splashes up along a sea wall in the suburbs of Manila on August 12, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Fishermen fix their nets as fishing is banned due to Typhoon Utor, in the suburbs of Manila on August 12, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents wade through ankle-deep water along a flooded stretch of road as heavy rains brought on by Typhoon Utor hit the suburbs of Manila on August 12, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Children play in the waves brought on by Typhoon Utor as the ocean splashes up along a sea wall in the suburbs of Manila on August 12, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Filipino worker rests as they down a billboard sign as people brace for Typhoon Utor in Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)