1.4m flocked to parks in April as Sars left the city a no-go area The Sars-inspired exodus to country parks last month provided many city residents with a breath of fresh air - but they left behind a 460-tonne mountain of rubbish. A senior official from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department told legislators yesterday that the amount of refuse collected in April had almost doubled compared with that collected for the month last year. 'In April alone some 1.4 million people went to country parks and left behind some 460 tonnes of rubbish - an 80 per cent increase on both counts compared with last year,' country park officer Yeung Ka-ming said. 'There was so much rubbish that the bins were all full and rubbish piled up much faster than our colleagues could clear them. Basically all our staff, and half of the cleaners, had to work through the weekends to cope with demand.' The influx of visitors also meant other facilities were stretched to the limit. Dr Yeung told Legco's hygiene panel that officials had to double the number of portable toilets in the parks for the visitors. 'We have never had 1.4 million visitors in April in previous years. Parks used to be almost empty at that time of the year,' Dr Yeung said. 'The huge number of people put enormous pressure on the parks and it was at its worst during the Easter holidays. People going to parks used to hike, but the new visitors tend to pack places such as the barbecue areas or any other places that cars can reach.' The government also released figures in yesterday's meeting for the number of fixed-penalty tickets issued against litterbugs and spitters. In the 11 months since a $600 fixed-fine system was introduced, more than 15,000 tickets had been issued, the panel heard. There had also been 10 cases in which law enforcers had been physically assaulted by people who objected to being fined. Police were called to give their assistance 400 times during the handing out of tickets. The Legco panel also heard that some spitters and litter bugs had been taken to court, which has the power to impose tougher fines than the standard sum of $600. But Ingrid Yeung Ho Pui-yan, deputy director for environmental hygiene, pointed out to legislators that one court had imposed fines as low as $200, while others had tended to impose fines of more than $1,000. The revelation angered Michael Mak Kwok-fung, the lawmaker representing the health service. 'I feel ashamed to have a magistrate like this, who wasted all the effort from all the parties involved in taking the offenders to court,' he said.