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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Hong Kong hit by smog
Smog has covered Hong Kong for a third day
Hong Kong has suffered a third day under thick smog with air pollution reaching record highs in some areas.

The authorities have warned people with respiratory and heart problems to cut back on outdoor activities and physical exertion.

Most areas were registering "very high" air pollution levels of more than 100 on the air pollution index, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

Levels above 100 are potentially hazardous to those with respiratory and heart ailments, while at 200 mark, all residents would be advised to stay indoors.

In the Central district, air pollution soared to as high as 174 - the highest on record since readings were first taken in 1995.

Higher wind speeds later on Wednesday afternoon led to some improvement in air quality in the district, although levels still remained high at above the 150 mark.

Still winds

Smog on the island is a recurrent problem and is usually attributed to vehicles, particularly diesel-powered taxis, trucks, light buses, as well as from factories and power stations in mainland China.

Tung Chee-hwa
Tung Chee-hwa promised to address pollution
The environmental protection department said levels of nitrogen dioxide were high but the situation was exacerbated by weather conditions, such as still winds and the low depth of the atmosphere, which had made it hard for pollutants to be dispersed.

The department assistant director Tse Chin Wan said: "You can imagine, [that it is] just like a box, everything is trapped there and therefore all the pollution builds up."

Friends of the Earth Hong Kong took to the streets wearing masks and urged the government to do more to clean up the air.

"The Hong Kong government is just taking no action," its assistant director Plato Yip said.

Raymond Chi'en, a member of the Executive Council, said air pollution could "affect our competitiveness in the future" if uncontrolled.

He said the government was working on the problem and hoped to see an improvement in two or three years.

Six months ago, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa made air quality a priority in his policy address and allocated $180m to get taxi drivers to switch to liquefied petroleum gas.

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