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Hong Kong elderly struggle to age with the extreme heat

  • By: Yi Yin CHOW、Runqing LI、Jemima BadajosEdited by: Nola Yip、Ming Min AW YONG
  • 2023-05-09

Chan Yin-chi, 77, lives alone in Kwai Hing. Every Tuesday, he visits the local community centre to dance with other elderly people. She is health conscious and brews her red dates tea every morning. The hot summer nights in Hong Kong though make it hard to sleep without an air conditioner, yet the damp cold air is a problem for Chan. “The cold wind from the air conditioning during the night makes my muscles and bones ache,” she said. “From here to here, there is pain in the whole body,” she said, pointing at her shoulders and legs.  Over the past two decades, the number of days when the temperature in Hong Kong was more than  33°C in a year has increased by 50%, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. Depending on how serious the greenhouse gas emissions are, the annual mean temperature of the city is expected to rise by as high as 1.7°C from 2041 to 2060. Joey Ho Wai-yan, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner in Hong Kong, explained that elderly folks are particularly vulnerable to the effects of high temperatures. Her clinic is often packed with people who suffered from heat stroke after staying outdoors for a long time .“Elderly people are physically weaker, have lower energy, poorer perspiration and they have difficulty adjusting to air conditioning, which affects the balance of their body temperature,” said Ho. “Even after seeking medical advice and taking antipyretic medication, the fever may still recur.”  Heat stroke is caused when the body temperature reaches 41°C or higher. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, nausea, shortness of breath and mental confusion, according to the Centre for Health Protection. Ho explained that climate change is making  Hong Kong becoming hotter and more humid from mid-spring to the end of summer. This makes it harder for …


Farewell To Tai O

  • By: Yee Ling TSANG、Huen Tung LEI、Wai Sum CHEUNGEdited by: Yu Yin WONG
  • 2023-05-02

Colourful soda cans shaped into lanterns that dangle from long pieces of wires is a type of traditional wind chime at the fishing village of Tai O. But when you walk around the many huts on stilts there these days, some of the chimes are rusted and broken because the owners have left for good. They were evacuated because flooding destroyed their homes. Tai O, is one of Hong Kong’s oldest fishing villages. It is in a low-lying area on the western coast of Lantau Island. This “Venice of Hong Kong” is threatened by inundation because of climate change.  Residents recalled their survival experience from two of the most devastating typhoons in Tai O: Typhoon Hato in 2017 and Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018.  In August 2017, Super Typhoon Hato smashed into Hong Kong with an estimated sustained wind speed of 185 kilometres per hour. The Hong Kong Observatory issued Hurricane Signal No.10, the strongest tropical storm warning signal possible here. It was the first No.10 in five years. Hato brought severe flooding and destruction in multiple coastal regions, including Tai O, Cheung Chau, Heng Fa Chuen, and Lei Yue Mun. In Tai O, the damage was the worst in nine years, according to the Observatory. When the government sounded the flood alert system, many residents there had to evacuate. The rising water approached faster than residents expected. Kenny Wong, a villager in Tai O, said they didn’t have time to prepare because the official forecast underestimated the typhoon’s impact. “The flood was up to my knees at home. Many of my furniture and electrical appliances were damaged during the storm surge,” Wong said.  He said Typhoon Mangkhut was even worse than Hato.  When Super Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong in September 2018, it brought the most severe wind strength recorded …


Climate change takes a toll on construction workers in Hong Kong

  • By: Tsz Yau CHAN、Yau To LUMEdited by: Tsz In Warren LEUNG
  • 2023-05-01

Wong Ngai, 49, a construction worker in Hong Kong has been on the job for six years and has already got used to the physical demands and challenges of his work. But when he was assigned to install street lights next to the airport, he realised his working conditions might get even tougher. Wong had to work in a two-metre wide space three metres underground. The lack of ventilation or fans made the air thick and stifling while the sun was beating down on him relentlessly. “Every time I go into an underground site, I immediately feel dizzy as the heat surrounds me,” said Wong.“I felt like an omelette frying under the sun.”  Lai Chun-Lok, 33, a surveyor who has worked in the construction industry for 13 years, said heat strokes are common on construction sites. “It could get up to 40 to 50 degrees Celcisus on the rooftop. The iron is so hot that it will burn your skin if you touch it,” Lai said. The hot and humid weather in Hong Kong has been worsening over the past decade due to climate change. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the total number of hot days has increased five times over the past two decades, reaching 55 days in 2022, and it is expected that this summer will get even hotter.  Outdoor workers bear the brunt of climate change. The number of heat stress related work injuries has increased by 75% since 2020, according to the Labour Department’s data. According to the document from the Human Resource Committee of the Legislative Council, the Hong Kong government plans to launch a new heat index guideline, the HKHI, in order to protect people who have to work outdoors in the summer. The heat index calculates temperature, humidity, and ultraviolet radiation from …


Hong Kong: Sweltering summers challenge residents of "pigeon cages" as temperatures soar

  • By: Yuqi CHU、Juncong SHUAIEdited by: Chengqi MO
  • 2023-04-28

At the end of the narrow aisle crammed with household goods, an old air conditioner hums as it struggles to cool the flat where 11 residents live in eight tiny cells separated by makeshift wooden walls.  Around noon, Xia Renhui 52, who has been living in this subdivided flat in Tsuen Wan for five years, prepares his lunch in the shared kitchen. The thermometer hanging on the wall records a temperature of 37˚ C. The scalding water from the tap and the steam spurting out of the rice cooker make Xia feel smothered.   "The whole room feels like a smelting furnace. Every inch of my skin is burning," said Xia.  In Hong Kong, more than 214,000 people like Xia live in subdivided flats, according to government statistics, where increasing summer temperatures are made worse by cramped, unventilated construction and expensive air-conditioning bills. Globally, over the past few hundred years, greenhouse gases from industrialization have led to global warming and an increase in extreme climates, according to a United Nations report. Hong Kong keeps breaking its temperature records. Last year, Hong Kong residents survived the hottest July in the past 138 years, when record keeping began, breaking a previous record set in 2020. And a high temperature of 35°C or above was recorded for 10 consecutive days in July last year, topping the annual record, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. At least five cases of sudden death at work suspected to be related to heat stroke have been reported between June and July in 2022. Hot nights increase the risk of death by about 2% to 3%, while a prolonged period of five or more hot nights raises the risk to 6.66%. Women had a six percent higher risk of dying from hot weather, while older adults had a five …


Hong Kong farmers adopt survival measures amidst rising temperatures

  • By: Tsz Yin HO、Mollie HibEdited by: Dhuha AL-ZAIDI
  • 2023-04-26

Just a 25-minute walk from Kam Sheung Road station between Pat Hueng and Kam Tin in Hong Kong’s New Territories is Fruitful Organic Farm, a locally-owned farm that’s been operating for 12 years. Roughly 30 to 40 crops grow here, neatly aligned with small wooden labels: tomatoes, pak-choy and lettuce, to name a few.  But this farm doesn’t make money from its organic produce. Instead, its income comes from renting out plots of land to other farmers, a survival response to climate change. As temperatures rise, some of Hong Kong’s farms are turning to land rentals and severe weather planting techniques to keep their crops and livelihoods alive. Paul Kwok, 66, who has owned Fruitful Organic Farm for over a decade, said his farm started as an effort to give Hongkongers an opportunity to rely less on imports and to plant their own vegetables organically. But he stopped selling his own produce to hawkers last year. Kwok said this was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising temperatures affecting the yield and size of vegetables and fruits. “I believe that we have suffered at least a 30% loss in harvest yield since I first started farming,” he said. Currently, over 90% of Kwok’s land has been rented out. “Our income is even more stable with renting out land to people than it was with selling crops,” he added.  Neighboring farms, such as Go Green Farm, have also adopted a similar business model.  Hong Kong has consistently gotten hotter over the years. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the region’s average increase in temperature per decade from 1993 to 2022 was 0.28 degrees celsius.  The Observatory also recorded that the annual number of very hot nights, classified as days with a maximum temperature of 33 degrees Celsius or above, has increased …


Tai O's dolphin-watching trips lose business as local marine mammals and tourists decline

  • By: Junzhe JIANG、Yuhan WANG、Xiya RUIEdited by: KOO Chi Tung 顧知桐
  • 2023-04-26

“HK$40 for a ticket! Don’t miss the chance to see the local pink dolphins here,” said Chow Tin-long on his boat, waving tickets in his hands. Chow has been running dolphin-watching activities in Tai O, a traditional fishing village on Lantau Island, for more than 15 years. . Chinese white dolphins,  commonly known as “pink dolphins”, have been a mascot of Hong Kong since 1977 and a common tourist activity in Tai O, said Chow. Chow, who works with three other fishermen, takes tourists out in his own boat for 20 minutes at a time to see the dolphins whose habitat is just off the coast.  However, the number of Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong has plunged from 158 in 2003 to about 40 in 2022, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department. With the decreasing numbers of dolphins and tourists, Chow and other small business owners in Tai O who rely on dolphin tourism to make a living have started to adapt with new revenue streams. They also find themselves raising public awareness of the marine creatures’ plight caused by climate change, land reclamation and heavy ferry traffic. Chow said business has dropped from around 30 to 40 tourists a day to only five or 10. He is earning about 40% less than he did ten years ago, he said.  “More than half of them could see the dolphins previously, but it’s hard to estimate now,” Chow said.“It is a hard time for us who make a living with the dolphins as I sold two of my boats for money five years ago.” He tried to reduce the ticket’s price but it didn’t help. After years of loss, Chow started to adapt his business model. “I once opened a grilled fish restaurant before the COVID-19, which only …


Hong Kong blooms in joy as annual flower show returns after three-year hiatus

  • By: James Ezekiel Kalaw MODESTOEdited by: Tsz Yin HO
  • 2023-03-20

As the city welcomes spring, swarms of people flocked to Victoria Park to celebrate the return of the annual Hong Kong Flower Show in Causeway Bay. The event has been cancelled since 2020 due to the safety concerns over the virus. This year’s theme was “Bliss on Bloom”, featuring 40,000 hydrangeas as the theme flower, along with some 400,000 flowers, according to the LCSD. Accompanying the flowers were attractions built by several government departments and the 18 district councils, along with other organisations, including the Philippine Consulate-General and the Guangzhou local government. The returning Hong Kong Flower Show garnered hundreds of people, including families, schools and tour groups. The 2023 Hong Kong Flower Show started on Mar. 10 and ended on Mar. 19.  

Ghost nets haunt Hong Kong waters, killing marine life and endangering divers

  • 2021-12-09

It took Harry Chan Tin-ming and a group of ten divers two hours under the sea in Tai Po to find and haul out 800 kilograms of abandoned fishing nets.  “90% of the time I go diving, I see ghost nets and it’s a big problem for marine life including fish, crabs, sea turtles and other marine life,” said Chan.  The large number of abandoned fishing nets, also known as “ghost nets”, is alarming and has become a major issue for marine life, its habitat and even commercial fishermen.  Chan, 68, known in Hong Kong as the “ghost net hunter”, has been diving for over 30 years and started regularly hunting for these nets more than eight years ago. “The ocean is a mystery,” he said.  Ghost nets are dangerous because marine life becomes entangled, affecting the health of the ocean and even divers who try removing them. They haunt the oceans and are a major contributor to the wider ocean plastic crisis. Made from a range of synthetic fibers, including nylon, polystyrene and other plastic compounds, ghost nets can travel vast distances.  "From the biggest fishing nets to the tiniest pellets, plastic pollution is impacting the ocean," said Dana Winograd, Director of Operations for Plastic Free Seas, a charity focused on solution-oriented awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean. It is also involved in regular beach cleanups around Hong Kong. In October, Winograd and a group of volunteers found ghost nets washed up on beaches in two of their last three beach cleanups at Butterfly Beach in Tuen Mun and Cheung Sha Lan on Lantau Island.  "It's not easy to recycle the nets if they have been in the ocean for a long time. Most companies claiming to use recycled fishing nets in their products are only using a …


Japan commemorates 10th anniversary of earthquake Sendai

Japan commemorated the event by a minute of silence for those who lost their lives in the earthquake. The Sendai earthquake, also known as the Tohoku earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1, triggered a tsunami that swept across the prefecture, making it one of the worst earthquakes since modern records began.

Health & Environment

COVID-19 lockdown in Majestic House, Tsim Sha Tsui

Another ambush-style lockdown is being implemented at Majestic House, 80 Nathan Road at the junction with Cameron Road in Tsim Sha Tsui on Monday evening. Large groups of police officers and medical workers have cordoned off the area while getting passers-by to leave the area. A 50-year-old man in Majestic House was confirmed to have COVID on 30 Jan, according to the Centre for Health Protection. Majestic House was first occupied in 1963 and has over 60 apartments. It is one of several residential blocks where people are subject to mandatory COVID-19 testing Monday evening. Other buildings include number 42-58A, On Hing Street in Yuen Long and Loong King Building on Ma Tau Wai Road in Hung Hom, according to the Food and Health Bureau. The Centre for Health Protection reported 34 new cases of COVID-19 in Hong Kong today. This comes after multiple lockdowns in Yau Tsim Mong district over the past week. There has been a visible cluster of growing cases in Tsim Sha Tsui over the past 14 days, according to the Centre for Health Protection website.