Australia bushfires: Sydney ‘choking in smoke’ as city shrouded in hazardous fumes

Experts warn those with medical conditions to stay indoors

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 19 November 2019 14:46
Smoke covers Sydney as wildfires continue to burn

Thick smoke from nearby wildfires has blanketed Sydney in hazardous smoke, prompting experts to warn those with medical conditions to remain indoors.

The skyline of Australia‘s most populous city was barely visible on Tuesday, as officials said the air quality was measured at 10 times over the level considered hazardous.

Bushfires in Australia have killed at least four people this month, destroyed more than 300 homes and burnt around 2.5 million acres of farmland and bush.

Powerful winds fanned around 130 fires, which have been burning across New South Wales and Queensland states for several days, pushing smoke south over Sydney.

One resident of the harbour city said it was “choking in smoke” and another tweeted: “Woke up at 5am because my brain was trying to tell me I was in danger. I could smell smoke. I can still taste smoke. The fire is 100 miles away. We can barely see 100 metres in Sydney today.”

Officials warned people to stay indoors as much as possible as the smoke is likely to linger over the coming days.

“We know that heatwaves cause severe illness, hospital admission and even deaths, and that people are more sensitive to heatwaves early in the season,” Richard Broom, director of environmental health at NSW Health said.

“The combination of heat and poor air quality adds to the risk.”

In NSW, firefighters were scrambling to strengthen fire containment lines ahead of forecast higher temperatures for much of the rest of the week.

“More than 1,300 firefighters are working on these fires, undertaking backburning operations and strengthening containment lines ahead of forecast hot, dry and windy weather, with seven areas under a total fire ban,” the NSW Rural Fire Service said in a statement.

The current bushfire crisis has mostly been contained to the east coast of NSW and Queensland states, but officials in South Australia warned on Tuesday that forecast near-record temperatures raises the risks in that state.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, will hit 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, which coupled with strong winds will create “catastrophic” fire danger conditions.

Additional reporting by agencies

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