Hongkongers gasp for air as cyclone threatens Taiwan

Top News | Sophie Hui and Reuters 18 Jul 2019

Hong Kong's air pollution significantly worsened yesterday as a tropical cyclone moved toward Taiwan.

The pollution level in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tai Po reached serious levels in the afternoon, said the Environmental Protection Department.

Several districts had the same problem as the monitoring stations in Central and Western District, Eastern District, Kwun Tong, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan, Tseung Kwan O, Tung Chung, Sha Tin and Tap Mun recorded air pollution levels that posed a "very high" health risk to people at 5pm.

All three roadside monitoring stations in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok also showed the air quality posed a "very high" health risk.

Under the "very high" health risk or anything above it, children, the elderly and people with heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities to a minimum or to avoid such activities.

Citizens were also advised to reduce outdoor physical exertion and the time spent outdoors, especially in areas with a lot of traffic.

The department attributed the air pollution to Tropical Cyclone Danas, which is moving toward Taiwan and the East China Sea in the next couple of days.

"Under the influence of the outer subsiding air of Tropical Cyclone Danas, the weather in Hong Kong was hazy with sunny periods and light winds," the department said.

"Hong Kong is being affected by an air mass with higher background pollutant concentrations."

It said the city has been blanketed by higher than normal levels of ozone and particulates since yesterday afternoon.

"The sunshine enhances photochemical smog activity and the rapid formation of ozone and fine particulates in the Pearl River Delta region. The high level of ozone has promoted the formation of nitrogen dioxide, particularly in parts of urban areas and at roadsides," it added.

The air quality is expected to improve later this week following rains and thunderstorms under a southwesterly airstream, the department said.

It forecasts that today's air quality health risk will be high to serious in the morning and moderate to high in the afternoon.

The Hong Kong Observatory said Tropical Cyclone Danas was more than 1,000 kilometers from the city.

"There's not much direct influence on Hong Kong, but its subsiding air has affected Hong Kong and brought very hot weather," senior scientific officer Li Sun-wai said.

The observatory's headquarters recorded a maximum temperature of 33.1 degrees Celsius yesterday, but the temperature in several districts, including Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui, Sha Tin, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po and Happy Valley, climbed to 35 degrees or above.

The mercury at Yuen Long Park reached 36.4 degrees.

The observatory forecasts that the weather today will still be very hot with sunny periods and haze, with the maximum temperature reaching 33 degrees. However, there will be a few showers and thunderstorms later.

The rainy weather and thunderstorms will persist tomorrow and on Saturday, and the maximum temperature will drop slightly to 32 degrees.

In Taiwan thousands of people were moved to safety yesterday as the island braced for its first typhoon this year.

Airlines cancelled domestic flights and authorities issued warnings about floods and high seas.

Tropical Cyclone Danas, categorized at the weakest typhoon level, is expected to hit the eastern county of Yilan later today.

It was moving across the ocean in a northwesterly direction at 18 kilometers per hour , weather officials said.

More than 2,000 people were moved to safety, most of them tourists on islands off its east coast, authorities said.

Nearly two dozen domestic flights and ferry services were cancelled, while troops were put on standby in some areas amid fears of heavy rain, which can trigger landslides and flooding.

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