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News : Extra Cold Shelters Opened and Elderly Callers Bombard Crisis Line
Hong Kong, Jan 22, 2016 -- Government authorities rushed to open extra cold shelters to the public while calls from the elderly to an emergency help line soared on Friday as Hong Kong braced itself for plummeting temperatures.
The city is in the midst of an intense cold snap due to a polar vortex. At noon on Friday, the Hong Kong Observatory cut its temperature forecast for Monday morning to as low as 5 degrees in the New Territories, down from the previous 6 degrees, with Ta Kwu Ling singled out to cop a chilly -1.0 degree.
Between midnight on Thursday and noon on Friday, as many as 555 elderly people called the Personal Emergency Link call centre, a spokeswoman from the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, which operates the service, said. Thirty-seven were admitted to hospital
"They were mainly grappling with dizziness and body aches," she added. The association suggested the elderly open windows to let in some fresh air while getting properly wrapped up to keep warm.
The government filed two public notices on Friday calling on citizens, particularly the elderly and those with heart disease to "take extra care", and urging the city’s firms to ask their outdoor workers to get wrapped up warm in winter gear.
The Home Affairs Department has also opened 16 temporary cold shelters in wake of the cold weather alert, up from 11 on Monday, in the major residential districts such as Kowloon City, Sai Ying Pun, Yau Tsim Mong and Tsuen Wan and Yuen Long. Anyone seeking temporary refuge may call the department’s hotline at 2835 1473 for more information.
The Centre for Health Protection also urged citizens to avoid alcoholic beverages, which it said would facilitate the loss of body heat, and to try to stay indoors while doing some exercise in order to help blood circulation. It also warned of a higher chance of flu and possible hygiene problems with hotpot dining.
Firms should arrange for employees who must work in remote areas or outdoors to work indoors or under shelter, and to notify them of proper measures to keep warm over the duration of the cold weather alert, the Labour Department said on Friday morning.
In the early morning next Monday, some districts in the north of the New Territories, such as Sheung Shui and Tai Po, will have their temperatures slide to 2 degrees – nearing the benchmark freezing point, according to the Observatory.
Temperatures are even set to stand briefly below the freezing point at -1.0 degree in Ta Kwu Ling, a northern area close to the border with Shenzhen, at about 7am next Monday, the forecast by the Observatory showed.
An intense cold surge that reached southern China on Thursday is the trigger for the chilly spell that will last for more than five days.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, January 25, 2016