Toxic haze blanketed Sydney yesterday, triggering a chorus of smoke alarms to ring across the city as “severe” weather conditions fueled deadly bush blazes.
Fire engines raced from office to office in the city center with sirens blaring, as inland bushfires poured smoke laden with toxic particles into commercial buildings.
Emergency services responded to an “unprecedented” 500 automatic call-outs within a few hours, New South Wales Fire and Rescue Commissioner Roger Mentha said.
A regional fire headquarters kilometers from the nearest blazes was evacuated, while throngs of mask-wearing commuters choked their way through thick acrid air and the organizers of a harbor yacht race declared it was unsafe to proceed.
“The smoke from all the fires is just so severe here on the harbor that you just can’t see anything, so it’s just too dangerous,” said spokeswoman Di Pearson of an event that normally foreshadows the famed Sydney-Hobart yacht race. “The vision is just so poor.”
Some of the city’s commuter ferries were also canceled “due to thick smoke” and schoolchildren were kept inside at break time and sent home early as pollution levels soared far above “hazardous” levels.
For weeks the east of the country has been smothered in smoke as drought and climate-fueled bushfires have burned.
However, the scale of the problem yesterday shocked even hardened residents.
Bruce Baker — an 82-year-old in Gosford, north of Sydney — said he was skipping his daily morning walk because of the smoke.
“This is the worst it’s been, for sure,” he told reporters. “It dries your throat. Even if you’re not asthmatic, you feel it.”
Authorities recommended that the vulnerable cease outdoor activity altogether and that everyone stay inside as much as possible.
Yesterday had been expected to bring strong winds and high temperatures that made for “severe conditions where embers can be blown ahead of the fire into suburbs and threaten properties.”
However, New South Wales Rural Fire Service said “deteriorating fire conditions have been delayed by a thick blanket of smoke” over the east of the state.
“Strengthening winds may see fire conditions worsen this afternoon,” it said.
As the day developed there were nearly 100 bushfire incidents in the state of New South Wales alone and dozens more in Queensland.
Total fire bans were put in place across much of the east of the country and in large parts of Western Australia.
Temperatures in some inland areas eased past 44°C.
To the northwest of Sydney, several fires already burning for weeks have combined to create a “megafire” that has destroyed 319,000 hectares of land, mostly inside national parks.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison — who for weeks has not commented on the smoke haze — defended his government’s handling of the fires and said there were no plans to professionalize the countryside’s largely volunteer force.
“Our policy is sensible when it comes to addressing and taking action on climate change. Our actions on climate change are getting the results they’re intended to get,” he said.
Morrison’s conservative coalition has been criticized by former fire chiefs for failing to heed warnings about climate change.
The crisis has been propelled by a prolonged drought that has made vegetation tinder dry.
On the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, enthusiastic slackers share their tips: Fill up a thermos with whiskey, do planks or stretches in the work pantry at regular intervals, drink liters of water to prompt lots of trips to the toilet on work time, and, once there, spend time on social media or playing games on your phone. “Not working hard is everyone’s basic right,” one commenter wrote. “With or without legal protection, everyone has the right to not work hard.” Young Chinese people are pushing back against an engrained culture of overwork, and embracing a philosophy of laziness known as “touching
‘STUNNED’: With help from an official at the US Department of Justice, Donald Trump reportedly planned to oust the acting attorney general in a bid to overturn the election Former US president Donald Trump was at his Florida resort on Saturday, beginning post-presidency life while US President Joe Biden settled into the White House, but in Washington and beyond, the chaos of the 45th president’s final days in office continued to throw out damaging aftershocks. In yet another earth-shaking report, the New York Times said that Trump plotted with an official at the US Department of Justice to fire the acting attorney general, then force Georgia Republicans to overturn his defeat in that state. Meanwhile, former acting US secretary of defense Christopher Miller made an extraordinary admission, telling Vanity Fair that
Boeing set a target of designing and certifying its jetliners to fly on 100 percent sustainable fuels by 2030, amid rising pressure on planemakers to take climate change seriously. Regulators allow a 50-50 blend of sustainable and conventional fuels, and Boeing on Friday said it would work with authorities to raise the limit. Rival Airbus is considering another tack: a futuristic lineup of hydrogen-powered aircraft that would reach the skies by 2035. The aircraft manufacturers face growing public clamor to cut emissions in the aviation industry, which added more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Thursday resigned following a protest over a hospital’s treatment of a new mother who tested positive for COVID-19. Khurelsukh, whose Mongolian People’s Party holds a strong majority in the parliament known as the State Great Khural, stepped down after accusing Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party of orchestrating a political crisis. A small protest broke out in the capital, Ulan Bator, on Wednesday after TV footage appeared of a woman who had just given birth being escorted in slippers and a thin robe from the maternity ward to a special wing for COVID-19 patients