Urbanites shiver as mercury falls to its lowest in more than three years
Heike Phillips and Benjamin Wong
Urban Hong Kong awoke reluctantly yesterday after shivering through its coldest night in more than three years.
The Hong Kong Observatory in Tsim Sha Tsui confirmed yesterday's low of 6.8 degrees Celsius was the coldest since December 23, 1999, when the temperature dropped to 5.8 degrees.
And while conditions were cold in the city, out in the New Territories they were freezing. From an afternoon low of 0.3 degrees on Tai Mo Shan on Thursday, the temperature dropped a further 0.7 degrees, entering negative territory early yesterday morning.
The cold weather warning remains in place, with temperatures expected to hover between 8 and 12 degrees in urban areas today and a few degrees less than that in the New Territories.
New Year revellers heading for outdoor celebrations are in for more chilling news, with only marginally warmer weather on the way. New Year's Eve should see a maximum of 18 degrees drop to 13 overnight, with next year's arrival being heralded by a high of 17 degrees.
The Observatory said it was too early to offer a forecast for the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 1.
The cold snap has prompted hundreds of elderly people, some of them living alone, to contact the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association for help.
Association executive director Timothy Ma Kam-wah confirmed that 540 senior citizens had called his organisation between midnight and 5.45pm yesterday.
Five hundred of the calls were due to cold-related ill-health or accidents. Thirty-three callers were taken to hospital.
Some of them had hurt themselves in falls caused by the fact they were wearing too many clothes and had lost their balance, he said.
Of the 40 remaining calls, some had been requests for blankets, others were about the weather and some asked the association to contact their families.
Meanwhile, the Vegetable Marketing Organisation said with the high demand for hotpot, vegetable prices had gone up 30 to 60 per cent. Chinese cabbage, for example, soared to $4 per catty, up 50 per cent.