Government warns of high air pollution across England

Defra issues particulate matter warning but UK Air website is still offline after being hacked by Islamist group

The government has today (April 8) issued a warning that high levels of air pollution are forecasted across central, eastern and northern England towards the end of the week.

Levels of particulate matter are expected to increase from moderate tomorrow (April 9) to high on Friday (April 10) across much of England, with “locally very high levels for a time in the far southeast”, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Meanwhile, PM levels are expected to be moderate across parts of Scotland and Wales on Thursday and Friday, although a spokeswoman for Defra said it would be a “short event”, with Atlantic winds helping to disperse pollution throughout the UK by Saturday morning (April 11).

Defra’s forecast warning issued today reads: “Current forecasts show air pollution levels are expected to rise over the next few days and reach high or very high levels on Friday. This is due to locally generated particulate matter combining with pollution blown in from the near continent – and a contribution from Saharan dust.”

Episodes of high particulate matter levels are more common in the UK around spring time, and today’s forecast follows another longer episode of high PM2.5 levels across the UK last month (see story).

Islamist website hack

Today’s forecast warning was issued by Defra on the website and also includes health advice for UK residents. However, the UK Air site usually featuring the government’s information on air quality and forecasts remains offline after it was hacked by an Islamist political group yesterday (April 7).

Visitors to the Defra UK Air website yesterday morning before it was taken offline were greeted with a photo of a building draped in a flag depicting former Iraq ruler Saddam Hussein, followed by a message which read: “It’s time to remind the British government what you did with Saddam Hussein will not forget. And we are ready to sacrifice with everything, as not to give up Iraq and stay alert for the coming…”

A spokeswoman for the Department confirmed that the Defra Air website was first hacked yesterday at 5.30am and that an investigation has been launched into the incident.

According to the Defra spokeswoman: “As a result of the hack yesterday we took the UK Air website offline. We are working with Ricardo-AEA, the company contracted to operate the site, to bring the site back online as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, the landing page showing updated forecasts for the coming days is still available, as is information on the main website.”

The spokeswoman also said that a second hack of the website was attempted around mid-morning time yesterday, after which the decision was made to take the website offline altogether.

The spokeswoman added: “It appears that the group was called Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail.”

Screenshot of the Defra UK Air website landing page today (April 8) after it was hacked and taken offline yesterday

Screenshot of the Defra UK Air website landing page today (April 8) after it was hacked and taken offline yesterday


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