Hong Kong freezes as mercury dips below zero on high ground, but not everyone feeling the cold
February kicks off with big chill, and dry weather also brings fire warning
The first day of February has been the coldest so far this winter in Hong Kong, with the mercury dipping to just 6.8 degrees Celsius (44 Fahrenheit) on Thursday morning, surpassing the Observatory’s forecast of 7 degrees.
At the peak of Tai Mo Shan – the highest point in the city at an altitude of 957 metres (3,139 ft) – the temperature plunged below freezing to minus 1.5 degrees on Wednesday night and fell further to minus 1.8 degrees by the morning.
Minimum temperatures between midnight and 10.30am at Tate’s Cairn and Ngong Ping also got close to zero, hitting 0.6 and 0.5 degrees respectively.
But by 11am the city had warmed up a little as 26 monitoring stations reported a temperature of 9 degrees or above. Stations at Lau Fau Shan, Tai Po, Chek Lap Kok, and Tsuen Wan Ho Koon received the coldest readings.
A cold weather warning has been in force since Sunday – when the minimum temperature dropped below 12 degrees. That was joined by a yellow fire danger warning at 6am on Thursday as the occasional rain on Wednesday was replaced with fine and dry weather.
The Observatory said an intense winter monsoon had brought cold weather to southern China and the chilly spell would persist into the latter part of next week. It forecast there would be relatively large temperature differences between day and night in the next few days.
The cold drove many elderly residents to seek shelter at government centres. On Wednesday night 667 people checked in to 17 temporary locations operated by the Home Affairs Department. In the previous three nights that number was 524, 660 and 593.
A personal emergency link service provided by the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association received 1,942 calls on Wednesday. Some 120 of those seeking help – most for pain or after a fall – were sent to hospital.
On Thursday as of 11am, another 457 individuals had used the service and 42 had been sent to hospital.
The persistent cold spell may lead to more people falling sick amid the city’s winter flu season, which hospitals have been struggling to cope with since early January.
The outbreak, primarily caused by the influenza B virus, has led to 158 cases classified as severe as of Wednesday and caused 83 deaths. Eleven severe cases involved children and two of those youngsters died.
On the last day of January, accident and emergency units at public hospitals received 5,018 new patients, of which 968 were transferred to wards, driving the average inpatient bed occupancy rate to 106 per cent.
The government urged the public to take precautions against both the cold weather and the high risk of fire.