Sydney chokes on smoke from blazes

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 20 Nov 2019

Sydney was shrouded in dangerous haze yesterday as smoke from bushfires blazing along Australia's eastern seaboard sent pollution levels soaring in the country's biggest city.

Official data showed pollution at "hazardous" levels, and the usually blue skies of the city were a miserable gray, with landmarks the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge dulled against the skyline.

"Sydney is also known as the 'big smoke' and is living up to the nickname," a Bureau of Meteorology forecaster quipped.

New South Wales state's environmental health director, Richard Broome, said fine particles in smoke could irritate respiratory systems and aggravate existing lung and heart conditions.

Much of the smoke was being blown from an out-of-control fire burning across two national parks 100 kilometers northwest of Sydney. It had burned through almost 140,000 hectares of bush.

Six people have been killed and hundreds of homes lost in fires across New South Wales and Queensland since September, when an early fire season began across drought-stricken regions. Cooler weather brought some respite in recent days, but higher temperatures, gusting winds and low humidity are set to return.

More than 110 fires were burning across the country's east yesterday, while South Australia state is on alert today, when temperatures will reach about 40 degrees Celsius.

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