Hong Kong may not be directly affected by severe tropical storm Trami, which is currently battering China, but it surely still made its presence felt in the country. Trami’s coverage was so wide that it trapped pollutants in Hong Kong’s air to reach “very high” levels, prompting the government to issue health warnings.
“Because of the typhoon, we don’t have any wind, the air now is like static, pollutants accumulate and they can’t get out,” Kwong Sum-yin, chief executive officer at Clean Air Network, a non-profit advocacy group, told Bloomberg. “Central is pretty bad, exactly because we have so many skyscrapers.”
“The high air pollution incident is a result of the trapping of local pollutants, in particular nitrogen dioxide, in the territory under the light wind,” Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department said.
On Thursday, pollution indexes breached the 100 limit – it was 174 at roadside-monitoring stations in the Central business district, 184 in the commercial district Causeway Bay and 167 at Mong Kok.
Once readings breach the 100 line, government immediately alerts its people, especially those with heart or respiratory illness, to stay away from heavy-traffic areas.
Between 9 and 10 am, the visibility in the Central business district dropped to 1,500 metres.
“The light wind condition and intense sunlight favoured the photochemical smog in the region, resulting in the high regional background pollution,” Dave Ho Tak-yin, principal environmental officer, was quoted by the South China Morning Post.
“The high air pollution incident is a result of the trapping of local pollutants, in particular nitrogen dioxide, in the territory under the light wind coupled with the relatively high regional background pollution,” he added.
Trami, with torrential rain and winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour, dumped its full force early on Thursday in China’s Fujian province.
Tourists currently in Hong Kong who wanted to snap the coastal city’s famous skyline were forced to use fake backdrops featuring the skyline captured on a rare, pollution-free sunny day to serve as souvenir of their visit.
Measuring 3 meters high by 15 meters wide (10ft by 50ft), the backdrops show a picture-postcard-perfect panorama of Hong Kong Island’s central area taken from one of the popular sightseeing areas across Victoria Harbour.
“We did take pictures over there [with the actual harbour view]. But it is too foggy today,” Australian Dallas Seager told the South China Morning Post. “We couldn’t see the architecture [on Hong Kong Island] clearly.”
As of 7 pm local time on Thursday evening, Hong Kong’s air quality index was at 152, still considered “unhealthy.”