Category Archives: Local News

Hong Kong records ‘serious’ air pollution levels, thanks to Nesat and Haitang

Hong Kong records ‘serious’ air pollution levels as Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang whip up unhealthy conditions amidst heat

Published: SCMP, 30 Jul 2017
Link to original article here

Hong Kong recorded “very high” to “serious” levels of air pollution across the city on Sunday afternoon [July 30; Saturday wasn’t much better], made worse by Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang as light winds hindered the dispersion of pollutants.

“Under the influence of the outer subsiding air from Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang, a continental airstream is affecting Hong Kong. The weather is very hot with moderate west to northwesterly winds,” the department said in an announcement on Sunday.

“Light winds hindered the dispersion of air pollutants formed yesterday and led to higher than normal pollution levels in the morning. The intense sunshine enhances photochemical smog activities and the formation of ozone, resulting in high ozone concentrations in the Pearl River Delta region.”

The high level of ozone has contributed to the formation of nitrogen dioxide particularly in parts of urban areas and along roads, the department said.

More monitoring stations are expected to record “serious” levels of pollution later on Sunday, it added.

A 19-year-old man was sent to North District Hospital after he felt unwell while hiking in Sheung Shui. The university student’s condition was later stated as critical.

Temperatures reached an average of 34 degrees Celsius on Sunday afternoon, with Sha Tin, Kowloon City, Happy Valley and Sham Shui Po recording 37 degrees. It was 36 degrees in Tuen Mun, Shau Kei Wan and Kwun Tong.

The Observatory has issued the “very hot weather” warning, meaning that the risk of heatstroke is high.

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The Observatory said Typhoon Nesat had weakened, moving further inland into Fujian province in mainland China. Tropical Storm Haitang meanwhile moved northeast closer to the vicinity of Taiwan. The pollution levels in Hong Kong will remain higher than normal until Haitang reaches the southeastern coast of China.

When the pollution level is “very high” or worse, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to reduce or avoid outdoor activities.

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Concreting Hong Kong trails harms runners’ joints, says expert

The repetitive jolts from landing on concrete causes tendinosis – irreversible injury to ligaments, tendons and muscles; a group is working with the government on alternatives to concreting the city’s trails

Published: SCMP, 22 Jul 2017
Link to the original article here

Rugby players play on rugby pitches, track athletes run on tracks, rock climbers climb rocks, mountain bikers go up and down mountains on bikes. So why should trail runners run on anything but natural trails?

Knee and ankle joints suffer from the impact of running or hiking on concrete, and steps force the joints into unnatural angles, causing further injury.

Yet the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) continues to concrete trails to “protect” hikers and runners. For example, part of section eight of the Hong Kong Trail across Hong Kong Island was unnecessarily cemented as part of a government project in Big Wave Bay, in the southeast of the island, in 2008.

The repetitive jolts that result from landing on concrete causes an injury called tendinosis, in ligaments, tendons and muscles, collectively known as fascia, says Alain Chu, Hong Kong physiotherapy and acupuncture expert and mountaineer.

“Every sport should have a suitable surface. For trail running, they should be on trails. I don’t know why the government needs to change the country parks into city gardens,” Chu says.

Do not confuse tendinosis with tendinitis, Chu says. “Tendinitis is an inflammation, but inflammation is the first step of healing and can be solved in three to five weeks.

“But the tendinosis means it cannot heal; there’s no inflammation, it just can’t heal. They lose the healing power pretty much forever.”

Tendinosis is a disruption of the cells at a molecular level, meaning there is constant pain, particularly walking down stairs. If the fascia ever recovers, it takes years and a lot of treatment, Chu says.

Runners and hikers with strong tendons are less likely to suffer from tendinosis.

“If you want the tendon to get stronger, you must get used to it,” Chu says. “There are many trail runners these days, but before trail running, they did not exercise, and did not hike.

“They just go straight to running. They should spend more time building that strength. Or, for me, I go to trails without concrete.”

To make matters worse, hiking on stairs can put undue stress on joints. Paths such as the one up Lantau Peak require hikers to climb huge staircases.

The knee flexes to a far greater angle to get down each step than on a smooth gradients, Chu says, so that the ligaments and tendons are at maximum extension and pull on the knee cap.

This will cause more stress and impact, and the wear and tear of the joint surface. If the angle is very sharp, the force is very high; if you walk down slopes, the force is much less,” he says.

Continue reading Concreting Hong Kong trails harms runners’ joints, says expert

Rare white fox found on Lantau hiking trail

Animal, which is not native to Hong Kong, was rescued by authorities and is now being cared for by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Published: SCMP, 16 Jul 2017
Link to the original article here

A rare species of wild fox not native to Hong Kong was found trapped on a Lantau Island trail on Friday night [July 14] and was later rescued by firefighters, prompting authorities to investigate where the animal had come from.

The 1.5 ft-long fluffy white marble fox was now being cared for by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [SPCA] after it was picked up by a pair of hikers in a diversion channel at around 10pm Friday night.

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A society spokeswoman said that although the fox did not sustain any injuries and was able to eat, it looked skinny and frightened.

“The fox is scared of people. We do not know its sex and age at the moment as our vets cannot do a check-up on it. We will let it rest in a quiet environment for now,” she said, adding that it was in stable condition.

“We have to isolate the fox in our Kowloon centre as a wild fox might carry rabies.”

The group said the red fox was the native species to Hong Kong but had been all but wiped out, whereas the marble fox was a wild species.

“We do not rule out that someone brought it from abroad and kept it as a pet. The owner later dumped it or it got lost somewhere,” the spokeswoman said.

She added the group stayed in contact with Kadoorie Farm and departments including the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to discuss further arrangements for the creature. Adoption is not possible since it is a wild animal.

The police confirmed that a 27-year-old hiker, surnamed Chan, reported the case at 10:27pm. Fire officers were called to the scene to rescue the fox, which was later picked up by animal inspectors from the SPCA.

Hiker Ivan Li uploaded pictures of the fox on his Facebook page, saying that he found it trapped in the diversion channel when he was hiking with a friend. He described the fox as “very skinny and (looks) very hungry”.

“The fox was hobbling. I thought it was injured. I felt like it was hungry, so I gave it my bread,” he wrote.

He later reported the case to the police and the SPCA.

Two men in hospital after Hong Kong wild boar goes on rampage

A dozen police officers and conservation workers sent to capture the animal in Tseung Kwan O

Published: SCMP, 24 Jun 2017
Link to the original article here

One of the city’s wild boar gave police and conservation officials the runaround in Tseung Kwan O early on Saturday morning [June 24], injuring two people in the process [as well as making international news: here’s a CBS video clip of the poorly handled incident].

Police received a report just after 7:30am that a boar had been spotted on the side of the road by bushes near Lohas Park.

A policeman responding to the call [stupidly] kicked the 60kg boar whilst trying to catch it. That caused the animal to attack the officer and a nearby elderly cyclist.

While the pig was on the rampage, it smashed into an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department [AFCD] van, denting its side.

Raising concerns about the treatment of the pig, the Wild Boar Concern Group said the animal had been provoked, and was defending itself.

The 73-year-old cyclist suffered injuries to his arms, back and legs. The police officer, 34, fell over and hurt his arm. Both men were taken to Tseung Kwan O hospital.

About 12 police officers and officials from the AFCD were sent to capture and restrain the animal, which was eventually subdued with nets, [riot] shields and a rope tied round its neck. The boar was taken away.

The case is not the first time a wild boar has run amok in Hong Kong’s urban areas.

In December last year, a 50kg wild pig haplessly wandered into the restricted zone at Hong Kong International Airport, alongside planes and airport vehicles. It was hit by an airport vehicle [not what was reported at the time, interestingly], and had to be put down.

Wild boars also fancy a spot of retail therapy. Back in 2015, one of the porcine pedestrians strayed into a shopping mall in Chai Wan, causing much disturbance.

[See also Second wild boar encounter over weekend as four animals subdued in Aberdeen, Hong Kong, which occurred the very next day following the above incident, so on June 25. Fortunately, no wild boars were kicked this time and nobody was injured.]

Hong Kong’s barking deer still dying in catchwater drain that activists exposed two years ago

Protected animals getting trapped in concrete nullah on Lantau Island despite calls for action

Published: SCMP, 15 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

Hong Kong’s barking deer are still dying and being injured in the same concrete-lined catchwater drain that the South China Morning Post revealed was harming the animals two years ago.

The concrete structure between Tong Fuk and Shek Pik on Lantau Island remains a major hazard for the creatures, which have been climbing down into the nullah to drink water before realising they are trapped.

Four deer have fallen in over the past month, despite animal welfare campaigners having spoken to the government about the issue in 2015. Activists said at least two of those deer died from their injuries or starvation, while the others were seriously injured, often to their hooves or horns, meaning they eventually had to be euthanised after being captured.

Campaigners are furious that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has ignored their calls to build exits for the deer within the Water Supplies Department’s (WSD) catchment.

Jacqui Green, founder of animal rights charity Protection of Animals Lantau South, said three deer had been trapped in the catchwater within just 12 days.

“These gentle, graceful but extremely shy and sensitive creatures are a protected species in Hong Kong,” she said. “Almost two years have elapsed [since the group highlighted the problem] and these animals are still dying. It is very disappointing, and also deeply distressing for those of us actively involved with the protection of the deer, to realise just how little has been achieved by the WSD and the AFCD since our initial meeting in May 2015. These are protected animals and essentially all we are asking for is a serious commitment towards this aim.”

Kathleen Daxon, spokeswoman for Tai O Community Cattle Group, said it was getting harder to monitor how many deer were dying or being hurt in the catchwater.

“We have no way to know how many animals have died in there,” she said. “We are more than just frustrated. [Government officials] did not even do the upgrades they committed to.”

Daxon also expressed concern about the way government officials handle the deer during rescue missions.

“Our videos show how brutally they handle them,” she said. “In one case, they should have just left the animal to die there from the way they were handling it.”

Barking deer, known for their distinctive canine yelp, are a protected species in Hong Kong but, because of their nocturnal feeding habits, environmentalists have found it difficult to estimate their numbers.

In 2015, the AFCD said the government had put railings along the catchwater drain area to prevent animals falling in, but said the access ladders installed at the site were not intended to help the animals escape.

Workers at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden near Tai Po advised the government to put an adequately textured painted surface over the concrete, which would help animals to climb back out if they fell in. The farm has also suggested screwing small foothold blocks on the surface of the catchwater, or installing ramps. Some of the injured deer are being cared for at Kadoorie Farm until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

Paul Crow, a senior conservation officer there, said the deer which were taken to recover at the farm had been through “extreme stress” and most died after developing the muscle condition capture myopathy, which stems from the stress of being caught.

“This is an unfortunate situation that appears to have worsened in recent months and the exact reason for this is unclear,” Crow said. “The issue will not go away so there is an opportunity here to be innovative and develop solutions which can be applied widely in Hong Kong .”

Continue reading Hong Kong’s barking deer still dying in catchwater drain that activists exposed two years ago

Hong Kong hikers warned as death toll exceeds 2016 total in just four months

The latest casualty was a 60-year-old man who collapsed on Sunday while trekking through Plover Cove

Published: SCMP, 17 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

An alarming number of hiker deaths in Hong Kong has prompted experts to warn the public to take extra precaution when venturing on the city’s trails.

Five people died in hiking-related incidents on the city’s trails over the first four months of the year, exceeding the total of four deaths in all of 2016, according to the South China Morning Post’s records.

The latest casualty was a 60-year-old man who collapsed on Sunday while trekking through Plover Cove Country Park. He was with a group of eight hikers, who were close to Wu Kau Tang when he complained of feeling dizzy, before losing consciousness.

Dan Van Hoy, a leader with the Hong Kong Hiking group on social networking platform Meet Up, said he was particularly worried when he saw hikers not carrying provisions such as water, food or suncream.

He said he did not want to dissuade people from hiking, but urged beginner hikers to start by attempting easy trails with plenty of shaded areas and water springs before building up to more challenging ones.

“My suggestion would be for people who have not been hiking recently or who are over the age of 50, just to pay a little visit to your doctor – it seems to be prudent to check your health beforehand,” he said.

“In our groups, you always have people who are not experienced in hiking and do not come really prepared. Some people will tell you they ran the Standard Chartered Marathon last year, but I ask them what exercise they have done in the last six to eight weeks. I advise people to start small and build up over a period of weeks.”

Hiking-related accidents and injuries have increased in Hong Kong, as the pastime has become more popular.

Hiker numbers steadily rose from 12.2 million in 2005 to 13.3 million in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of mountain rescues more than doubled from 138 in 2005 to 357 in 2016.

Hikers’ lack of preparation, and a desire to take the best photo for social media, have been blamed for the worrying trend.

Tony Basoglu, another leader for the Hong Kong Hiking Meet Up group, said he was not surprised that hiking accidents were on the rise. He also emphasised that preparation was key to avoiding injury.

“As there are more and more people on the hills, it’s only normal that more accidents and health issues will happen,” he said.

“You always need to carry plenty of water and also drink, drink, drink. You just need to take appropriate precautions and go out and have fun.”

Basoglu said hikers should be particularly mindful to assess their physical limits before attempting difficult trails during hot weather.

“In [the latest] case, it was not an accident – it was an older gentleman and it seems he suffered some kind of health issue,” he said.

“I guess it’s due to heat and exertion, as it was quite hot at the time.

“It could also be that he was not in the greatest of shapes and the stress on his body caused his heart to give out. When we get to that age, we need to be much more careful about exertions.”

Shum Si-ki, who founded the Hiking Meet Up group in 2005, called on the government to start recording the number of hiking-related deaths in country parks to better monitor the situation.

“Particularly on hot days, not many people can cope in these conditions,” he said.

“I think the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department could start monitoring the death toll. Hiking is a major pastime of Hong Kong people and because it is getting more popular, the number of people getting injured it going to go up.”

85 Hong Kong hill fires reported during Ching Ming festival, three times last year’s number

The largest case was in Fanling, where a blaze tore through 250,000 square metres of hillside

Published: SCMP, 4 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

A total of 85 hill fires reported on Tuesday [April 4] – more than three times the number recorded in the same period last year – kept Hong Kong firefighters busy amid the dry weather during the annual Ching Ming grave-sweeping festival.

As the yellow fire danger warning remained in force for about 12 hours on Tuesday, the Government Flying Service deployed helicopters to fight some flames that broke out mainly in the New Territories.

The largest blaze was reported in Yuen Leng, Fanling, where about 250,000 square metres – roughly 35 football fields – of hillside land caught fire shortly before 1pm. Firefighters took about three hours to extinguish the flames, a government spokeswoman said.

Another hill fire, covering an area of 10,000 square metres, broke out in Tai Yeung Che, Tai Po, at about 10am. It was put out shortly before 11:30am.

The spokeswoman said no helicopters were deployed in both cases.

A helicopter was sent to perform a water drop when about 4,000 square metres of hillside caught fire near Shui Chuen O Estate in Sha Tin at midday.

The blaze was extinguished shortly before 2:45pm.

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From 8am to 5pm Tuesday, the Government Flying Service deployed its Super Puma helicopters on 11 water bombing flights in response to 16 hill fires.

No casualties were reported in the incidences, the spokeswoman said.

By 10pm Tuesday, 85 hillside fires had been recorded across the city, the Fire Services Department said.

There were 26 reports of hill fire during last year’s Ching Ming festival when an amber rainstorm warning signal was in force for nearly three hours.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the yellow fire danger warning – indicating high fire risk – was issued at 6am Tuesday and cancelled 12 hours later.

“It was dry in the afternoon. The relative humidity in many places fell below 60 per cent,” the Observatory said.

Ching Ming festival is one of two annual occasions when people pay respects to their ancestors by sweeping and burning paper offerings at graves. The other event is the Chung Yeung festival [October 28 this year].

Elderly hiker dies after passing out in Clear Water Bay Country Park

Victim fainted while climbing stairs and was airlifted to hospital

Published: SCMP, 4 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

Heroic Hong Kong fireman dies in Tiu Shau Ngam clifftop rescue drama

Yau Siu-ming slipped and fell while helping to save trapped hikers in Ma On Shan Country Park, then died 15 minutes after colleagues battled for 10 hours to get him to hospital

Published: SCMP, 22 Mar 2017
Link to the original article here

A fireman injured in a cliff fall while rescuing an off-duty policeman and his girlfriend died ­on Wednesday minutes after a heroic effort by colleagues to get him to hospital.

Yau Siu-ming, 50, lost his footing and slipped during an all-night search and rescue operation that began on Tuesday when the couple became trapped after getting into difficulty in a treacherous part of Ma On Shan Country Park.

The principal fireman was carried down in a coma but it took 10 hours for rescuers to reach Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin.

Just 15 minutes later, at 4.17pm, Lau died of head injuries.

Assistant Director of Fire Services (New Territories) Yau Wai-keung said the hikers had strayed off their original path and entered woods and streams.

“[The firemen] had to pass through rough trails, roads ­covered with wet and sandy rocks and bushes,” he said.

Thick fog prevented a heli­copter from approaching. Firefighters had to walk 4km to reach the scene, then hack their way through the trail while tackling slopes at an angle of more than 60 degrees.

Resuscitation was performed on Yau, who was married and had a six-year-old son, as he was stretchered down, but to no avail.

The Post learned that the ­hikers were an off-duty constable, 32, from the airport security unit and his 30-year-old girlfriend.

“I am profoundly grieved at the loss of this dedicated and ­gallant principal fireman,” said Director of Fire Services Li Kin-yat, sending condolences to the family of the “devoted comrade”.

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He said a funeral committee would be set up by the Fire ­Services Department to make suitable farewell arrangements.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok and Secretary for the Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching also offered their ­condolences. Chief executive candidates Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor, John Tsang Chun-wah and Woo Kwok-hing said they were saddened by the news.

The Hong Kong Fire Services Officers’ Association said: “The association is deeply saddened and will do our utmost to provide assistance to his family.”

Yau, a fireman since 1987, was attached to Tin Sum station, near Tai Wai. He helped to put out the huge blaze that killed two colleagues in an industrial building in Ngau Tau Kok last year.

The hikers had set off from Shui Long Wo in Sai Kung on Tuesday afternoon. The man called police at 6.56pm, saying they had lost their way in the dark and fog and were trapped on a slope in Tiu Shau Ngam.

Some 250 firefighters and 19 fire engines were sent to the scene. The firemen began heading uphill at 7.06pm and after a five-hour search found the pair trapped on a slope about 10 ­metres below a hiking trail.

Yau fell and was knocked out at around 6am. A helicopter was eventually able to pick him up and he was taken to a fire station in Sha Tin, then to hospital.

Veteran hiker Chow Kwok-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Hiking Association, said Tiu Shau Ngam was notorious for its steepness and slippery rocks.

“On a scale of one to five, the difficulty is 3.5,” Chow said, urging beginners to start in the morning and not to go out in bad weather.

The hikers were discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

Trail etiquette, a new breed of Hong Kong hikers and useful trekking apps

It’s still early days for our city’s country park visitors to grasp the green concept of bringing home one’s litter

Published: SCMP, 11 Mar 2017
Link to the original article here

The government is facing an uphill battle to encourage hikers to be more environmentally aware and reduce the amount of litter left in country parks, figures show.

In September 2015, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department launched its Take Your Litter Home public education programme in a bid to reduce the number of rubbish bins on trails. About 256 litter bins – almost half of the total number – were removed by the end of 2016.

Despite the initiative, the amount of litter collected from the city’s country parks has not drastically fallen; instead it has remained generally consistent since 2013/14, when 3,700 metric tonnes of rubbish were collected.

Meanwhile pictures of litter-strewn picnic sites regularly show up on social media.

A spokesman for the department said the cleanliness and hygiene of country park trails “had not been compromised” by the waste bin reduction.

“As it takes time for the public to internalise the green concept and get accustomed to the practice of taking away their waste, we will continue with our efforts in raising public awareness,” he said.

Hong Kong Hiking Meetup founder Shum Si-ki said his hikers recently worked with the department on six trails to promote waste reduction.

He said, however, that while the amount of plastic bottles had declined significantly, there was still a problem with discarded tissue paper on the ground.

“There might be a misconception that they are biodegradable,” he said. “But I would like to emphasise that people should take them home too.”

The government also advised hikers to avoid smoking in the parks, as discarded cigarettes can start fires. It also suggested hikers should not feed wild animals as they might be dangerous when approached.

As for basic hiking etiquette, across the world, it is generally accepted that if two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, then the group travelling uphill has right of way. Hikers are generally advised not to create too much noise with radios or mobile phones.

More Young Hikers

The average age of hikers on Hong Kong’s trails has decreased in the last decade, Shum said.

Growing numbers of hikers in their early 20s are venturing into country parks, whereas in the past most hikers were aged in their 30s to 50s.

“We are finding that a lot of the younger generation are hiking with us in the last three or four years,” Shum said.

“I think the Tourism Board has done a good job of promoting the outdoors. Hiking is less expensive than other activities; you do not need a membership. And in Hong Kong, it is convenient. You can just call up a couple of friends, walk for a couple of hours, then return home.”

App Assistance

  • TrailWatch offers helpful advice and GPS tracking for Hong Kong hikers. Established by local family charity the Wyng Foundation in 2014, it provides maps, distances, timings and points of interest for most of the major trails in Hong Kong. It also allows users to rate their trails, upload pictures of their journeys and make friends online with other hikers, similar to Facebook.
  • Hiking Trail HK offers a similar free service via the Google Play store.
  • Green Hong Kong Green, produced by power company Hong Kong Electric and a non-governmental organisation, contains information and maps for eight trails which feature interesting eco-heritage spots.