Australian bushfires have caused unprecedented pollution in Sydney and along the country’s east coast, officials said yesterday, with smoke and dust burning residents’ eyes and prompting a spike in respiratory complaints.
Hundreds of bushfires have burned out of control since September along the eastern seaboard, covering cities from Sydney to Brisbane in smoke for weeks on end.
The extent of the crisis was made clear yesterday, with the New South Wales Department of Environment declaring that bushfires and dust had caused “some of the highest air pollution ever seen” in Australia.
The region “has experienced other periods of poor air quality that lasted several weeks, including the 1994 Sydney bushfires and the Black Christmas bushfires of Dec. 2001 to Jan. 2002,” a spokeswoman said.
“This event, however, is the longest and the most widespread in our records,” she added.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said more than a dozen fires were burning near Sydney yesterday, including three that carried an emergency warning.
For three weeks the city has seen almost daily air quality warnings.
Bushfires are common in Australia, but scientists say this year’s season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought fueled by climate change.
New South Wales health officials said more people with asthma were turning up at hospitals, and ambulance call-outs for breathing problems were up 24 percent last week.
Meanwhile, tourists and residents took measures to combat the smoke, buying facemasks and staying indoors as much as possible.
Yesterday, Sydney’s air quality index registered fine particulate pollution — small enough to penetrate deep inside the lungs — at more than 160 parts per million, far above levels considered to be safe.
Local newspapers and television have posted advice about how to limit the impact of the smoke — offering tips on what masks to buy and what activities are safest.
The nation recorded its lowest level of rainfall for the month of November, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said yesterday.
All of Australia received less than 50mm of rain last month, with parts of the west coast receiving less than 1mm, it said.
The dry weather extends a drought that has gripped the east coast for three years.
The dry weather is not expected to break for at least another three months, the bureau said last week.
Additional reporting by Reuters
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Dark matter, mysterious invisible stuff that makes up most of the mass of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is confounding scientists again, with new observations of distant galaxies conflicting with the current understanding of its nature. Research published this week revealed an unexpected discrepancy between observations of dark matter concentrations in three massive clusters of galaxies encompassing trillions of stars and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed. “Either there is a missing ingredient in the simulations or we have made a fundamental incorrect assumption about the nature of dark matter,” Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, a coauthor of