May 13, 2011

HONG KONG: Elderly suffer as heat alert smashes record

HONG KONG / The Standard / May 13, 2011

By Natalie Wong

Nearly 1,200 elderly residents sought help yesterday as the SAR sizzled under the earliest "very hot weather warning" since records began 12 years ago.

The Senior Citizen Home Safety Association said 74 sufferers needed hospital treatment as the mercury hit 35 degrees Celsius in Tai Po and Sheung Shui and 34 degrees in most other areas of the New Territories.

Observatory scientific officer William Shum Chi-tai said the very hot weather warning had only been issued in May twice before - in 2000 and 2007 - and then not as early as yesterday.

"The precipitation for the period is much lower than normal. Therefore, there has been a lengthy hot and sunny period with not many clouds," Shum said.

The observatory said temperatures will begin to fall today as a trough of low pressure over Guangdong moves gradually southwards, bringing with it thundery showers and southerly winds.

Association deputy director Carmen Ng Ka-man said the senior citizens taken to hospital were suffering from dizziness and pain-related disorders.

Assistant director of health promotion Regina Ching Cheuk- tuen warned those engaged in strenuous outdoor activities to avoid beverages containing caffeine and alcohol, as the substances speed up water loss from the body.

The Labour Department advises employers to set up temporary sunshades and provide mechanical aids during extremely hot weather.

A vendor at a home appliances chain said he has sold twice the number of air conditioners over the same period last year thanks to the temperatures.

"Some customers even have to wait until the end of the month to have their sets installed," he said.

Fujikon Industrial Holdings' head of overall strategic planning and business development Johnny Yeung Chi-hung said the prices of electronic appliances from Japan, including air conditioners, have soared by 30 percent because Japanese manufacturers reduced production after the March 11 earthquake.

Yeung said more locals are now switching to products from the mainland or Southeast Asia.

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