People swamp shops for drinks and ice cream as temperature hits 37 degrees 'It's like a furnace in here!' These words from a Sai Kung ice cream vendor sweltering in his truck summed it up for everyone yesterday as a combination of heat and bad air had outdoor workers and shoppers sweating and choking. Hundreds of elderly people made emergency calls for medical help and two hikers had to be flown to hospital in temperatures that reached 37 degrees Celsius in some places. As Taiwan reeled from the force of Typhoon Haitang, a band of hot, still air bordering the storm contributed to the city's heatwave, helping to boost the air pollution index due to a poor dispersal of pollutants. The index was high for most of the day, with the top of 178 recorded on the outlying island Tap Mun at 3pm. Of 963 elderly people who pressed emergency alarms, 43 were admitted to hospital, many with dizziness or breathing problems. Although the Hospital Authority recorded no cases of heatstroke, two men hiking at Long Ke in the Sai Kung country park were rescued by a Government Flying Service helicopter at 2.30pm when they suffered breathing difficulties. Two other people were taken to hospital after falling ill in the heat. The very hot weather warning was in force for the third successive day. But the maximum at the Observatory in Tsim Sha Tsui, at 34.4 degrees, was still less than the 34.6 on July 1 last year and the record of 36.1 on August 18, 1990. Chek Lap Kok was the hottest place yesterday, at 37 degrees, followed by Shek Kong, at 36 degrees. Friends of the Earth kept up its campaign against too-cool air conditioning, urging companies not to use the heat as an excuse to turn down their thermostats. 'Come to our office,' said campaigner Agnes Chen. 'We have set the temperature at 25.5 degrees. The real indoor temperature is 28 degrees. And we're comfortable.' People without air conditioning had to find other ways to beat the heat. At the Sha Kok public housing estate in Sha Tin, elderly people gathered under a pedestrian bridge for shade. Popular cooling-off spots included supermarkets and stores, where groups of people gathered without buying anything. At a Wellcome supermarket, cashier Ng Siu-yeen said the number of customers had increased 50 per cent, with most buying drinks and ice cream. Circle K stores reported a 60 per cent jump in sales of soft-serve ice cream and 20 per cent for drinks. While most people were trying to keep cool and out of the sun, the Liu family of six spent from 11am to 4pm barbecuing in Sai Kung. Mrs Liu said: 'This was the only day we managed to all get off. It's not that hot is it?' In Pat Heung Wong Chuk Yuen Tsuen in Yuen Long, Spring Lee Wai-Chun and his 70-year-old mother were sitting it out in their tin-roofed hut. Mrs Lee said 'it's extremely hot', but there was nothing she could do about the weather, except make some winter melon soup to counter the heat. The Home Affairs Department said about 112 people had used its heat shelters in the past two nights.