Smoke haze blankets Sydney as bushfire threat rises

Cheryl Sanders
November 19, 2019

An image taken on a smart phone from a phone window shows how the smoke haze has blanked the city on Tuesday.

Parts of the city reached unhealthy levels of air pollution due to smoke from the fires on Tuesday, with areas in north-west Sydney matching the level of air pollution in New Dehli.

The Doctors for the Environment Australia members said poor air quality caused by bushfire smoke puts vulnerable groups at risk, including people with pre-existing heart and lung disease as well as the elderly, babies and young children.

As well as the fire at Gospers Mountain, most of the coastal areas of New South Wales are under severe or very high fire danger with at least 50 fires burning across the state - of which 28 remain un-contained. "However, people with conditions like asthma, emphysema and angina are more likely to be sensitive to the health effects of smoke", said Dr Richard Broom, Director of Environmental Health at NSW Health.

The Bureau of Meteorology says bushfire smoke will ease in Sydney during the day but later worsen again on Tuesday night.

The blaze, which has been raging for several days, has already burnt through nearly 140,000 hectares of bushland.

Temperatures in Sydney are set to hit 32 degrees before dropping.

Strong winds fanned around 60 fires still ablaze across New South Wales (NSW) state and officials said smoke that stretched across Sydney was measured at 10 times above hazardous levels in some parts of the city. The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

In South Australia state, a ban on lighting fires is in place ahead of predicted "catastrophic" fire danger on Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to soar to about 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

The country's conservative government, which is eager to protect its lucrative mining industry, has ignored the growing calls to curb fossil fuels and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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