Smoggy air affects air, sea travel in Northern Taiwan

Smoggy air affects air, sea travel in Northern Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan - As smoggy air clouded over Northern Taiwan yesterday, the country's transportation took a hit, with Keelung Harbor closing down and flights to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport diverted to Kaohsiung.

According to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB), particulate matter from Central and Southern Taiwan are being blown to the north, and the public can still expect bad air quality in Taoyuan, Miaoli and Hsinchu today.

A thick fog covered Keelung, Taipei and Kinmen in the early morning yesterday, forcing Keelung Harbor to close down three times during the course of the day.

Four flights to Taoyuan International Airport were re-directed to Kaohsiung International Airport due to poor visibility. Two airports on the Matsu Islands were also shut down in the morning.

The airport said a dense mist began to emerge in Taoyuan at 5 a.m., sending visibility below 200 metres. The mist then evaporated by 9:10 a.m.

Keelung has also been plagued by foggy air lately. With poor visibility, ships were prohibited from entering or exiting Keelung Harbor at 3:30 a.m. and then again at 5:54 a.m. Although the ban was lifted at 8:15 a.m., it was re-introduced at 9:12 a.m. once again because of bad visibility.

The Taiwan International Ports Corporation said the haze turned thicker after 9 a.m. Traffic lights and everything else within the port were blocked from sight by the white mist.

Sulfur Dioxide and Rising Particulate Matter

The CWB's chief meteorologist Cheng Ming-dean suggested the smoggy air may be associated with rising levels of sulfur dioxide. Cheng said that sulfur dioxide, which attracts water molecules easily, is the most likely to impact visibility among air pollution causes.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) pointed out that both sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide may cause levels of particulate matter to rise. Whether sulfur dioxide is the culprit demands more study and data collection, said Chen Hsien-heng, air control director-general of the EPA.

Smoggy air was seen yesterday in Taipei City's Guting District; New Taipei City's Banqiao Yonghe, Tucheng and Shinjo districts; and Taoyuan City's Pingzhen and Dayuan districts.

Nevertheless, expect a more sunny sky today and tomorrow. Temperatures will reach 30 degrees Celsius in Northern Taiwan, and even higher in Central and Southern Taiwan.

Hospital Beds Filled with Patients

With the bad air quality, Taipei saw the number of patients seeking respiratory treatment surging up in the last two days. Taipei Veterans General Hospital's Division of Respiratory Therapy said that all its beds were already occupied as of yesterday.

Patients with reactive airway conditions and chronic lung diseases were affected the most by the bad air, according to the Respiratory Therapy division head Chiang Chi-hui.

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