HKO: No imminent threat of radiation

Updated: 2011-03-16 07:16

By Michelle Fei(HK Edition)

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 HKO: No imminent threat of radiation

Hong Kong residents stand by a television screen in a commercial building Tuesday afternoon, watching the broadcast of an emergency notice released by the Chinese Embassy in Japan. The notice calls for the orderly evacuation of Chinese citizens from earthquake-hit areas in Japan on a voluntary basis. The Consulate General in Niigata will arrange for shuttle buses to Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Iwate Prefectures. They will then transfer Chinese citizens to Narita and Niigata Airports for their journey home. Zheng Zuosheng / CNS

Group tours to Japan delayed owing to high radiation levels

The Hong Kong Observatory has moved to allay fears that radiation from the disaster unfolding in Japan may pose a threat to Hong Kong.

A statement from the observatory said that, based on an assessment of the current weather situation, the chances of radiation from Japan reaching Hong Kong over the next few days are slim and that the air mass approaching the city over the next several days originates far from Japan.

The official statement from the observatory was prompted by statements circulating on the Internet Tuesday, stating that radiation from Japan would affect Hong Kong.

In the meantime, inspections of food imports from Japan are being intensified, as a safeguard against radiation contamination.

Under Secretary for Food and Health Gabriel Leung said it would be precipitate simply to halt food imports from Japan at the present time.

He added, that the Japanese government and food importers have promised to ensure that food brought in from the quake-stricken country is safe for consumption.

Leung added that, thanks to a west wind forecast for Japan in the coming days, radioactive materials are not likely to be blown to Hong Kong.

The travel advisory for the three most-affected prefectures in Japan - Miyagi, Iwate and Ibaraki - was raised from red to black on Tuesday.

The Hong Kong government cited the seriousness and uncertainty of the worsening radiation crisis in Japan.

Tuesday's announcement from Under Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok came after two explosions were observed at the Unit 2 and 4 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant early Tuesday morning. Shortly thereafter radioactive levels at Fukushima Prefecture surged to eight times their previous level.

Dosage rates of up to 400 millisievert an hour have been reported at the site, the level of which was already high enough to affect people's health directly, according to the Japanese authorities.

Meanwhile, Lai said it would not be necessary to introducing radiation examinations of tourists coming back from Japan. He said those checks must have been done before tourists depart Japan.

Lai added that the area within 20 kilometers of the nuclear power plant had been evacuated immediately after the radiation leakage. Citizens within 30 kilometers of the plant were urged to stay indoors.

As of Tuesday, there are 11 tour groups, precisely 257 Hong Kong tourists, in Honshu region. All of them will fly back to Hong Kong on or before Friday. Another 800 Hong Kong tourists on individual travel in Japan are scheduled to fly back home gradually, said Lai.

Hong Kong travel agencies continued to cancel tourist groups to Japan, citing potential dangers caused by aftershocks and worries over the increased radioactive level at the nuclear power plant after explosions at reactors on Tuesday.

Package Tours (Hong Kong) decided to postpone group tours to Tokyo and Sendai until the end of March, owing to radiation levels in Fukushima. Tourists who had paid for trips scheduled to depart on March 14 to 31 can have their tickets reserved in the coming six months or transferred to other agencies. No extra fee will be charged.

EGL Tour Company Ltd also announced cancellation on tour groups to Japan, extending the coverage of cancelled tour group from March 20 to the end of the month.

"Any levels of radiation would do harm to human health. It's only a matter of the seriousness," said Professor John Ho Wing-shing of the School of Life Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Ho urged Hong Kong residents in Japan to stay indoors and avoid rainfall.

China Daily

(HK Edition 03/16/2011 page1)