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We’re choking up

Hong Kong Standard – 29 August 2011

If you’re gasping for air today, the Hong Kong Observatory has bad news – you can expect more of the same for the next few days.

The news came as air quality plunged yesterday, with the air pollution index reaching 163 in Causeway Bay, 147 in Central and 145 in Mong Kok.

A reading between 100 and 200 is considered “very high” and hazardous to health.

The temperature hit 35 degrees Celsius in some areas.

A 48-year-old woman collapsed while hiking in Sai Kung. She was taken to hospital by helicopter.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said people with heart or respiratory illnesses, the elderly and children should avoid staying in areas with heavy traffic. He said the air pollution index will remain higher than normal in the next few days because of the poor dispersion of pollutants amid light winds and high regional pollution caused by photochemical smog.

The smog is the result of the reaction of sunlight and chemicals, which leaves particles in the air – a problem of modern industrialization.

The spokesman said that a continental airstream is bringing very hot weather and light winds to Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. The strong sunshine and stagnant air hinders the dispersion of pollutants, leading to high levels of smog in the city.

“We expect the photochemical smog to still be active and the dispersion in urban areas to remain poor,” said the spokesman.

“The general and roadside API readings are expected to stay higher than normal in the next few days.”

To add to the discomfort, the mercury soared to 35 degrees Celsius in areas such as Sha Tin and Sheung Shui.

Hong Kong Observatory scientific officer Cheung Sai-kit said the hot and choking weather will last for three to four more days. Hot weather makes it more difficult for suspended particles to be blown away.

He said Typhoon Nanmadol, which is approaching Taiwan, will have a limited effect on Hong Kong. The expected track takes it past Taiwan and into eastern China, far from Hong Kong.

Nanmadol has killed at least 10 people in the Philippines and caused flooding and landslides. It also knocked out power in the northern areas of the country.

The Education Bureau has called on schools to reduce outdoor activities for all students. The Labour Department has also urged employers to assess the risks of outdoor work. Workers who do not feel well should inform their supervisors, it said.

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