French air aces eclipsed by Hong Kong haze

20th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

HONG KONG, Oct 20 (AFP) - France's crack aerobatics pilots put on a stunning aerial display over murky Hong Kong Wednesday in skies so polluted that green groups warned such shows would soon become impossible to see.

HONG KONG, Oct 20 (AFP) - France's crack aerobatics pilots put on a stunning aerial display over murky Hong Kong Wednesday in skies so polluted that green groups warned such shows would soon become impossible to see.

Thousands peered through a haze of smog to watch the jets of the Patrouille de France perform for the first time in the former British colony.

The corps delighted the crowd with its aerial ballet over the south coast of the Chinese territory, but when it came to painting the sky in smoke coloured the red, white and blue of France's tricolour, many could only see brown whisps through the gloom.

"The display was excellent but the sky was so grey and hazy because of the pollution, you couldn't really see it properly," said Wong Yiu-bor, a 67-year-old retired company manager.

The Patrouille de France has been performing in China to mark the year-long France in China cultural exchange festival launched two weeks ago by French president Jacques Chirac during a goodwill tour.

Officials had been keeping their fingers crossed they could avoid an embarrassment like that when the corps was forced to cancel a display in Beijing earlier this month because smog over the Chinese capital made flying hazardous.

Meteorologists had forecast a clear day for the event, but a cloud of smog that has hung in the air for at least three days refused to budge, sending pollution readings into the high bracket and prompting the government to issue health warnings in some areas to people with breathing problems.

The still air and cool temperatures of autumn worsens Hong Kong's already bad pollution problem, preventing the huge amounts of noxious pollutants that drift in from heavily industrialised neighbour China from being blown to sea.

On Wednesday Greenpeace said Hong Kong's air quality is actually much worse than the government claims because its current "loose and outdated" standard that was set nearly two decades ago.

Greenpeace claimed the acceptable level of respirable suspended particles in Hong Kong was 3.6 times the EU standard, while sulphur dioxide was 2.3 to 2.8 times higher and nitrogen dioxide double.

Edward Chan, assistant campaigner of Greenpeace in Hong Kong, said the government should follow the international standard World Health Organisation(WHO) and EU system.

The government's official figure on Wednesday morning showed a pollution reading of 91, which was classified as "High". But Greenpeace's calculation based on the WHO standard showed it was in fact 314 which would have been classified as "Severe".

At that level the government would have warned citizens to hold off from physical exercise and to stay indoors.

"We are using an outdated measurement. If we keep using the same standard, it will endanger people's lives," said Chan.

Greenpeace said it would measure the city's air quality by using the WHO and EU system for the next 10 days to highlight discrepancies.

The findings will be announced on November 1.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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