Posts Tagged ‘haze’

Mysterious ‘chemical haze’ envelops UK coast, affecting at least 150 people

August 28, 2017

Image may contain: ocean, beach, sky, water, outdoor and nature

Updated 12:24 AM ET, Mon August 28, 2017

(CNN)Around 150 people have been treated at hospital after being caught in a mysterious “chemical haze” that blanketed the UK’s East Sussex coastline Sunday afternoon.


Residents exposed to the cloud reported eye and throat irritations, a spokesperson for the National Health Service told CNN.
There are no indications yet as to what caused the haze, but East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service have termed it a “chemical incident.”
Authorities said the problems began when the “unknown haze” covered the area after possibly coming in off the sea at about 5 p.m. local time.
Multiple UK publications were reporting the cloud was chlorine gas — a toxic chemical weapon that was used to devastating effect during the first World War — but authorities said this was “extremely unlikely.”
“The effects, while uncomfortable, were not serious, and an investigation is now under way by a number of agencies working in partnership to establish the source of the gas,” Sussex Police said in a statement.
Though some of the first patients to be seen were fully decontaminated, later arrivals were simply given basic treatment after clinical advice that decontamination wasn’t necessary, police said.
Emergency services remained in the area early Monday after evacuating people from the coast. Remaining residents were being warned to stay indoors with the windows and doors shut.
“If you feel any effects, such as stinging eyes, the South-East Coast Ambulance Service is advising to wash with copious amounts of water and that if you have any serious concerns then you should seek medical advice,” East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said in a statement.
All the patients who arrived for treatment have since been released from hospital.
“The effects were mostly minor and it was not necessary to admit anyone for further treatment,” Sussex Police said in a statement.

Chemical haze warning along Sussex coast near Eastbourne, UK

August 27, 2017


20:15, UK, Sunday 27 August 2017

The incident was first reported at beauty spot Birling Gap
Image:The incident was first reported at beauty spot Birling Gap

People are being warned to avoid beaches and keep doors and windows shut after an “unknown haze” drifted in off the Sussex coast.

Up to 50 people at the cliff tops and beach at Birling Gap, near Eastbourne, reported irritation to their eyes and throats just before 5pm.

The haze spread along the coast for several miles, as far as the town’s harbour.

“This seems to have been caused by an unknown haze coming in from the sea, but the source has not yet been established,” said Sussex Police.
Video:Watch: Haze rolls in off the sea at Birling Gap

Emergency services have cleared the area and told people living along the coast from Eastbourne to Birling Gap to avoid beaches and shut their windows and doors.

Two lifeboats were sent to Birling Gap in case anyone was trapped on the beach.

A RNLI spokesman said a “plume” had drifted in bringing “some sort of substance” with it.

Witness Mark Battershill told Sky News: “The haze is pretty bad – it’s coming in.

“Eyes are streaming, I’m at home now with my family, we’re all sitting here and the tears keep running, stinging eyes, sore throats.”

Mr Battershill was at Eastbourne’s harbour when the haze came in: “I was speaking to a colleague of mine and said ‘my eyes are really streaming’.

“I looked around and he was the same and we’re all saying ‘what is this?'”

He said some people were complaining they could not breathe properly.

Another witness, Jonny Gould, tweeted: “I am about four miles along the Sussex coast from #Birling Gap. The smell of plastic is strong in the air and my eyes are irritated.”

He told Sky News there was a visible haze in the air.

A local McDonald's was one of the businesses that shut up shop. Pic: Harry Hepworth
Image: A local McDonald’s was one of the businesses that shut up shop. Pic: Harry Hepworth

Sameer Jadhav tweeted: “Birling Gap some weird gas leak. People crying. Ambulances called. Don’t go to Birling Gap at the moment.”

Chief inspector Bruce Matthews tweeted a picture from the cliff tops and warned the haze appeared to be moving towards the Bexhill area.

Many businesses in Eastbourne have also closed, with a sign at the local McDonald’s saying it had shut due to a “chlorine gas leak”.

The area affected stretches several miles from Birling Gap to the famous cliffs at Beachy Head, and along the Eastbourne seafront to the Sovereign Harbour.

More follows…

What exactly is causing China’s toxic smog?

December 21, 2016

As thick, choking smog continues to envelop large parts of the country, long-suffering Chinese residents have raised questions

By Stephen Chen
South China Morning Post

Wednesday, December 21, 2016, 7:43 p.m.
 Image may contain: sky and outdoor

As thick, choking, toxic smog continues to envelop large parts of China, long-suffering Chinese residents have raised the question of what exactly is causing the terrible air pollution.

Have the country’s eco-friendly wind farms slowed air circulation, making it harder for smog to disperse, and has switching to natural gas contributed more harmful particles to the air than the use of coal?

These are the burning questions that Chinese social media users have raised over the past few days as residents across northern China endure the smog that is laying siege to a seventh of the country.

Some critics believe the government’s measures taken to counter air pollution have instead worsened its problems, but scientists say this is not the case.

The burning of coal is the biggest factor contributing to northern China’s smoggy conditions, according to Professor Chai Fahe, a researcher with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

 A cyclist rides along a street in Liaocheng, Shandong province, on Tuesday, December 20, 2016. Photo: Reuters

 A woman wearing a mask walks along a bridge in Tianjin on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Speaking at a press meeting organised by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Tuesday, Chai said emissions from burning coal in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei – the most developed regions in northern China – were five times the national average.

The situation would worsen in winter, as many urban communities and rural families in those regions also relied on coal for heating, he said.

To reduce the country’s reliance on coal-fired power plants, the government set up large-scale wind farms.

Most of the wind turbines are located in grasslands in Hebei and Inner Mongolia to the north of Beijing, and sit across a major stream of cold air from Siberia.

A recent study found that near-surface wind speeds in Beijing had declined significantly, from 3.7 metres per second in the 1970s to just 3 metres per second presently.

Xu Dexiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, said wind farms could indeed affect the movement of ground air, according to studies conducted both in China and abroad.

Significantly reduced wind speeds had been recorded in areas within 100km from the wind farms, Xu said.

But the impact to Beijing – which is more than 400km south of Inner Mongolia and 200km from Zhangjiakou in Hebei where most of the farms are located – would not be “obvious”, he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

 Chinese rtist Liu Bolin wearing a vest with 24 mobile phones as he walks in smog to live-broadcast the city’s air pollution on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Xu also said a man-made forest created to reduce dust storms in northern China should not take the blame for the region’s worsening smog.

Such low-lying foliage would not slow down the movement of cold air, which travels at a height of more than 1.5km above ground, he said.

Critics have also raised the possibility that the worsening smog is due to Beijing’s switching winter heating sources from coal to natural gas.

Beijing has in recent years undertaken a massive and costly campaign to use cleaner energy. Natural gas is cleaner than coal, producing water and carbon dioxide when burnt, instead of the dust and smoke that coal produces.

But the water vapour that burning natural gas produces can also increase the concentration of air pollutants near ground. Ongoing research has suggested that tiny water molecules in the air may speed up chemical reactions, leading to worse smog.

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 People on a street in smog during polluted day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on Sunday, December 18, 2016. Photo: Reuters

Wang Zifa, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics, said the burning of natural gas in China pumped more than 300 million tonnes of water into the atmosphere each year – equivalent to 30 times the amount of water in Hangzhou’s famous West Lake.

Nevertheless, water vapour accounts for only a small, “almost negligible” fraction of water in the whole atmosphere, Wang said.

The use of natural gas hence was not a big contributor to the high humidity of Beijing’s smog, he said.

Wang Shuxiao, an environmental science professor with Tsinghua University, said the public should be more patient with the government’s anti-pollution measures.

China could counter its smog problem only if the whole of society worked together to reduce the emission of air pollutants, Wang said.


China: Oppressive smoke, smog and haze provoking public anger about the slow response to the threat to children’s health

December 21, 2016
© AFP | A group of people wearing masks visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing on December 21, 2016

SHIJIAZHUANG (CHINA) (AFP) – China’s smoggiest city closed schools Wednesday, as the country suffered through its sixth day under an oppressive haze provoking public anger about the slow response to the threat to children’s health.

Since Friday, a choking miasma has covered a large swathe of northeastern China, leaving more than 460 million gasping for breath.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, baby and child

Children get medical care, December 19, 2016

Shijiazhuang, the capital of northern Hebei province, was one of more than 20 cities that went on red alert Friday evening, triggering an emergency action plan to reduce pollution by closing polluting factories and taking cars off the road, among other measures.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting and child

Chinese residents are wearing face masks on the streets again  in Beijing.

But nowhere has been hit as hard as the city of Shijiazhuang, which has seen a huge spike in pollution.

The city’s education department waited until Tuesday evening to announce it was closing elementary schools and kindergartens, following similar moves in neighbouring Beijing and Tianjin.

The announcement said middle and high schools could close on a voluntary basis.

Air Pollution in Hangzhou

The statement, which appeared on the education department’s official social media account provoked anger.

“Are middle school students’ bodies’ air purifiers?” one incredulous commenter asked, adding “Are you going to wait for us all to become sick before you step up to fix this?”

A picture from neighbouring Henan province showing more than 400 students sitting an exam on a football pitch after their school was forced to close was widely circulated on social media, further fuelling discontent.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

Shanghai in winter

Shijiazhuang has seen 10 bouts of serious air pollution so far this winter, according to the China Daily newspaper, putting it at the top of the environmental ministry’s list of cities with the worst air quality.

Over the last 48 hours, levels of PM 10 in the city have been literally off the charts, with readings of the larger particle, a major source of haze, repeatedly maxing out at 999.

Levels of the smaller PM 2.5, tiny enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and thought to be a major contributor to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, reached as high as 733, more than 29 times the World Health Organization’s daily recommended maximum exposure of 25.



Severe health warning for young and old as serious levels of air pollution chokes Hong Kong

September 27, 2016

Bad air said to be caused by passage of tropical cyclone Megi, which is disrupting air traffic between Hong Kong and Taiwan


By Elizabeth Cheung
South China Morning Post
Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 8:27 a.m.

There was something in the air on Monday as parts of the city saw a return to “serious” levels of air pollution, particularly to the west, with the haze expected to remain until Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Department said the condition was caused by a nearby tropical cyclone which created favourable conditions for the formation of air pollutants.

The department warned the pollution levels would remain high on Tuesday but said cloudier weather and a few showers ­on Wednesday may see it ease.

At 4pm on Monday, the air quality health index in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun soared to 10+, the most severe warning on the scale, meaning a “serious” health risk.

During a serious health risk, children, the elderly and people suffering from heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to stay indoors as much as possible.

Tung Chung, also to the west of the city, recorded an index of 10, bearing a “very high” health risk.

On Monday morning, the air pollution level hovered between three and five on the index, meaning a low to moderate health risk, at all air monitoring stations, but turned worse in the afternoon.

The high levels started to drop at around 6pm.

The department said the hot weather and afternoon haze was caused by the outer subsiding air of the Taiwan-bound tropical cyclone Megi, which created favourable conditions for the formation of photochemical smog activity and ozone – leading to high pollution in the region. Light winds hindered the dispersion of pollutants.

Meanwhile, the passage of the storm disrupted air traffic between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair cancelled nine flights to and from Taipei and four flights to and from Kaohsiung on Tuesday.

They also announced a number of delays on Tuesday and Wednesday involving four flights between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung and three between Hong Kong and Taichung,

Dozens of China Airlines, Mandarin Airlines and Eva Air flights between Hong Kong and Taiwan were also suspended.

Study Estimates 100,000 Premature Deaths From Indonesia Haze

September 19, 2016

By Steven Wright
The Associated Press
September 19, 2016 — 12:11 AM EDT



Indonesia, EU, announce historic deal on timber trade

September 15, 2016


© AFP/File | Indonesian policemen carry out an operation to crack down on illegal logging in East Aceh

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia will in November become the first country in the world to export wood products to the European Union meeting new environmental standards in a move aimed at bolstering transparency and curbing illicit logging.

Officials from the European Union and Indonesia unveiled measures Thursday to ensure timber exports to the trade bloc, valued at roughly $1 billion a year, are sustainable and harvested within the law.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest timber exporters but the sector is plagued by criminality and corruption, and vast swathes of tropical rainforests have been felled for sale on the black market.

From mid-November special licences issued by Jakarta will certify the legality of timber products destined for the EU such as pulp, plywood and furniture.

?Indonesia has achieved great progress in bringing its forest sector under control and improving transparency,” Putera Parthama, a senior official from Indonesia’s forestry ministry, said in a statement.

“We have met the high certification standards of the EU.?

This assurance system, developed over years of negotiations, will be independently audited to ensure the timber is legally sourced and meets environmental standards.

Once the agreement takes effect from November 15, timber exports from Indonesia that do not carry this certification will be prohibited from trade within the EU.

Consumers in Europe can soon purchase wood products knowing they come from audited factories and forests, EU Ambassador to Indonesia Vincent Guerend said in a statement.

Indonesia supplies the EU with one-third of its tropical wood products, with Germany and the Netherlands the largest importers in the bloc.

Jakarta hopes the pact will help it double timber exports to the EU to the tune of $2 billion a year.

It’s is the first country to meet these standards but the EU is negotiating similar agreements with 14 other countries, which together provide the continent with 80 percent of its timber imports.


 (July 3, 2016)


Indonesia Court Finds Corporation Guilty of Setting Illegal Fires

August 31, 2016

A helicopter from Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency dousing fires in Kampar in Riau province on Aug 29, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The Palembang High Court has overturned a lower court’s decision to clear pulpwood firm Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) of illegally setting fires on its concession land in 2014.

According to a copy of the Aug 12 ruling that was seen by The Straits Times, the firm was found to have “committed an unlawful act”.

The High Court also ordered BMH, which supplies products to Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, to pay 78.5 billion rupiah (S$8 million) in damages.

The award is a small fraction of the 7.8 trillion rupiah in damages sought by the Environment and Forestry Ministry when it first filed the civil suit against BMH last year.

Still, green groups such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) hailed the latest verdict as a “small win” for Indonesia’s conservation efforts.

Walhi’s South Sumatra chapter director Hadi Jatmiko said: “On the one hand, the court is on the side of the environment by saying BMH is guilty of having illegally burnt 20,000ha of its own concession in 2014. But it is disappointing that the compensation is less than 1 per cent of the total sum demanded.”

Indonesia – through its Environment and Forestry Ministry – has been taking errant firms to task over illegal forest fires that have been the cause of transboundary haze pollution.

Mr Jasmin Ragil Utomo, who is from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, yesterday acknowledged the court’s decision.

“The most important thing is that the court has declared that the company has committed a violation,” said Mr Jasmin, who is the ministry’s director for environmental dispute settlement.

BMH’s lawyers declined to comment on the case, saying they have not received an official copy of the latest verdict.

This is not the first time BMH is in the news over allegations related to forest fires. Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency earlier this year said the firm has been ordered to restore 95,000ha of damaged peatland in its concessions.

An Indonesian soldier tries to extingusih a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia on Aug 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS / ANTARA FOTO

Satellite data from Global Forest Watch detected at least 22 fire alerts in their pulpwood concessions between Aug 21 and Sunday.

Indonesia – through its Environment and Forestry Ministry – has been taking errant firms to task over illegal forest fires that have been the cause of transboundary haze pollution.

Haze from fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra returned in recent weeks, prompting fears of a repeat of last year’s crisis, which sent air pollution levels to a record high and affected millions of people in the region.

Yesterday, heavy rainfall across Indonesia provided much-needed relief for people in Sumatra’s Riau province.

Several areas in Riau were hit by severe air pollution in recent days, prompting some schools to suspend classes since Monday.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) yesterday said a combination of rain and fire-fighting efforts, including cloud-seeding operations, helped improve air quality.

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who heads BNPB’s data and information division, said the air pollution standard index for most regions in Sumatra was generally under 50, or in the “good” range.

In Riau’s Rokan Hilir regency – one of the worst-hit areas in recent days and where fire-fighting efforts were focused yesterday – the air quality was “moderate”.

“Fire-fighting operations in the six provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan will continue,” said Dr Sutopo.

A total of five BNPB helicopters as well as three fixed-wing aircraft have been deployed to douse fires in Riau, he added.

Fires in Indonesia Again Belching Out Smoke and Haze

August 26, 2016

Indonesia: Hot spots from forest and land fires in Indonesia’s Riau province double overnight

An Indonesian soldier tries to extingusih a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia on Aug 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS / ANTARA FOTO

By Arlina Arshad — Indonesia Correspondent
The Straits Times

Satellites have detected 17 hot spots from forest and land fires in Indonesia’s Riau province on Friday (Aug 26), more than double the number overnight, as strong winds send acrid smoke north-east towards Singapore.

The National Space and Aviation Agency of Indonesia (Lapan) satellites detected only seven hot spots in the province the day before, Indonesia’s disaster management agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

The fire-control task force on the field, however, reported 67 hot spots, with 44 concentrated in the Rokan Hilir district, he said, adding: “Dense smoke was billowing from the hot spots.”

Separately, Mr Sutopo told The Straits Times that dry conditions, sporadic rains, and common incidents of illegal land clearing by burning in the past week were causing the spike in the number of hot spots.

“The wind is carrying the smoke from forest and land fires in Riau north-east to Singapore. The concentration of smoke observed is still quite thin,” he added.

The typical wind pattern during the dry season in Riau had “always been feared” to bring the smoke from the province to Singapore, as had occurred in 2013, 2014 and 2015, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Sugarin, head of the Pekanbaru branch of the meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, told The Straits Times the wind pattern is unlikely to change during the dry season, which peaks in September.

He added that the wind is also blowing strongly at 10 to 15 knots, but that air quality and visibility are “still good”.

“With hot and dry conditions coupled with strong winds, fires can spread easily,” he said.

However, he said the fires are still under control and the “haze will not be bad like last year”.

Millions of people in South-east Asia were affected by thick smoke from fires that covered many parts of the region in the second half of last year.

The crisis almost brought Indonesia to the brink of a national emergency.



Indonesia in haze warning as fires flare

August 19, 2016


© AFP | Forest fires in Ogan Ilir, Indonesia’s South Sumatra province

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia warned Friday that haze from forest fires was floating over a key waterway towards its neighbours, and that the number of blazes was rising.

The fires and resulting smog are an annual dry season problem in the archipelago, when blazes are started illegally to quickly and cheaply clear land, typically to make way for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.

But last year’s haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, shrouding Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke. The crisis forced school closures and caused thousands to fall sick across the region.

While this year’s fires have yet to reach the levels of 2015, the number has been rising in recent weeks as Indonesia heads towards its peak dry season in September.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned that smoke had Thursday started floating across the Malacca Strait, which runs between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Smoke from forest and land fires in Riau (province) has started to enter the Malacca Strait,” he tweeted.

“Let’s prevent and put out the fires.”

Riau, on western Sumatra island, is a major centre of the palm oil and pulpwood industry, and many fires occur there every year.

He also said the number of “hotspots” detected by satellites — areas of intense heat that are either already on fire or vulnerable to going up in flames — had increased in West Kalimantan province, on Indonesia’s part of Borneo island.

A total of 158 hotspots were detected in the province on Friday, up from 106 a day earlier.

The governor of the province, a centre of the palm oil industry, had asked the disaster agency to provide helicopters for water-bombing and “cloud-seeding”, or chemically inducing rain, said Nugroho.

Indonesia has faced intense criticism from its neighbours and the international community over its failure to halt the annual smog outbreaks.

Jakarta has promised tougher action. It has announced a plan to stop granting new land for palm oil plantations, and established an agency to restore millions of hectares of carbon-rich peatlands susceptible to fires.


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