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September 27th, 2016:

Hong Kong chokes as air pollution reaches serious levels

The thick haze covering many parts of Hong Kong is said to have been caused by a nearby Taiwan-bound tropical cyclone.

Hong Kong’s air quality has plummeted leaving some parts of the territory with serious levels of air pollution on Monday (26 September). It is expected to remain hazy until 28 September, according to the city’s Environmental Protection Department.

The condition was caused by a nearby Taiwan-bound tropical cyclone, which is said to have created favourable conditions for photochemical smog activity, leading to high pollution in the city. Light winds across the region also stalled the dispersion of pollutants, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

The department also issued a warning that pollution levels would continue to remain high on Tuesday (27 September). However, a few showers and cloudy weather could see the haze ease on 28 September, the environment department said.

The air quality health index on Monday showed severe warning on the scale, suggesting serious health risks. The severe warning is for the western part of Hong Kong, including Yuen Long and Tung Chung. People from these parts of the city, especially, children and the elderly suffering from heart or respiratory ailments were advised to stay indoors.

Air pollution from declining air quality has seen an alarming rise in cases of asthma and bronchial infections in the Hong Kong and Asia Pacific regions.

Hong Kong — a semi-autonomous state under a ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement with China — has often come under criticism from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its bad air quality. The contributory factor is said to be increasing traffic congestion, driven by growing number of private cars.

An environmental agency report in July said air pollution levels in the city had far exceeded the safety limits set by the WHO. Concentrations of nitrogen oxides in the air have surpassed WHO levels in the last five years. Emissions on roads alone are reported to have been nearly two and half times higher than recommended rates in some parts of Hong Kong.

Over 90% of the world is breathing bad air, WHO said on Tuesday (27 September). Earlier reports suggest air pollution takes the lives of around seven million people every year. One in eight deaths across the globe was due to pollution in 2012, the global body said. The deaths were mainly due to heart diseases or respiratory infections.

In Hong Kong alone, an estimated 821 pollution-related premature deaths were recorded until June 2016, according to data from the Hedley Environmental Index.

With air pollution levels increasing at an alarming rate countries across the world are coming together to sign the Paris deal on climate change. China and the US recently ratified the pact during the Hangzhou G20 summit, to help in reducing man-made carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

Severe health warning for young and old as serious levels of air pollution chokes Hong Kong

Bad air said to be caused by passage of tropical cyclone Megi, which is disrupting air traffic between Hong Kong and Taiwan

There was something in the air on Monday as parts of the city saw a return to “serious” levels of air pollution, particularly to the west, with the haze expected to remain until Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Department said the condition was caused by a nearby tropical cyclone which created favourable conditions for the formation of air pollutants.

The department warned the pollution levels would remain high on Tuesday but said cloudier weather and a few showers ­on Wednesday may see it ease.

At 4pm on Monday, the air quality health index in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun soared to 10+, the most severe warning on the scale, meaning a “serious” health risk.

During a serious health risk, children, the elderly and people suffering from heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to stay indoors as much as possible.

Tung Chung, also to the west of the city, recorded an index of 10, bearing a “very high” health risk.

On Monday morning, the air pollution level hovered between three and five on the index, meaning a low to moderate health risk, at all air monitoring stations, but turned worse in the afternoon.

The high levels started to drop at around 6pm.

The department said the hot weather and afternoon haze was caused by the outer subsiding air of the Taiwan-bound tropical cyclone Megi, which created favourable conditions for the formation of photochemical smog activity and ozone – leading to high pollution in the region. Light winds hindered the dispersion of pollutants.

Meanwhile, the passage of the storm disrupted air traffic between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair cancelled nine flights to and from Taipei and four flights to and from Kaohsiung on Tuesday.

They also announced a number of delays on Tuesday and Wednesday involving four flights between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung and three between Hong Kong and Taichung,

Dozens of China Airlines, Mandarin Airlines and Eva Air flights between Hong Kong and Taiwan were also suspended.