The air quality in Sydney, Australia continued to worsen on Tuesday, December 10, 2019, as roughly 100 bushfires burned in New South Wales (NSW) and strong north winds brought further smoke into the city. The haze was so thick in some areas that it was 11 times more severe than the level considered hazardous. A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment said the current period of poor air quality is the "longest and "most widespread" in the state's history.
"The smoke here in Sydney is extremely bad today; it is some of the worst air quality we've seen," said Richard Broome of NSW Health. "We are just urging people once again to take these [conditions] seriously."
NSW Ambulance Superintendent Brent Armitage also said that on Tuesday, the service attended to dozens of calls related to respiratory health issues.
Given the dire air quality, Unions NSW's assistant secretary Thomas Costa voiced out that workers should not be forced to do labor on outdoor sites while the haze persists. "Toxicity is very, very high," Costa emphasized.
Residents have taken to social media to share images and videos of the weather conditions.
"This wasn't the white Christmas I was dreaming of," a Twitter user posted on his account.
The smoke has also caused fire alarms to go off. In addition, Sydney Trains warned that fire alarms at train stations might also be set off.
The city has canceled ferries, and some offices in the downtown area were evacuated.
Health officials advised people to stay indoors as much as possible. People with heart and lung ailments were told to avoid outdoor activity.
"I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly get worse. And then it did," said another resident as she posted a video of haze blanketing the surroundings.
Here's 15 hours compressed into 7 seconds. The original timelapse sequence consists of 3500 frames and shows the bushfire smoke from the #sydneyfires moving over the city then getting blown away by a southernly wind. Spot the orange sun and moon setting as well! pic.twitter.com/PqTPqPCjlI— Matthew Vandeputte (@Matjoez) December 8, 2019
Smoke from bushfires surrounding Sydney has caused air pollution rated 11 times worse than the typical "hazardous" level— Brijesh K N Tiwari (@brijeshkntiwari) December 10, 2019
Fires,including those in the Hawkesbury region and near Warragamba Dam have caused a thick blanket of haze to settle around the city#sydneysmoke #sydneyfires pic.twitter.com/2fuaJ6kBe9
Landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge can be seen smothered in smoke. BBC's Phil Mercer said the smoke in the air makes breathing feel like being a heavy smoker.
First pic is how the View should look, 2nd pic taken just now. So much smoke I cannot see the Harbour Bridge. The lack of leadership from @ScottMorrisonMP and @GladysB on climate change literally stinks. #ClimateEmergency pic.twitter.com/LiSV4fHzKo— Annie Parker (@annie_parker) December 9, 2019
The smoke is being pushed towards the coast by westerly winds from bushfires outside of Sydney, said the NSW Rural Fire Service. Moreover, the Bureau of Meteorology said a southerly change is set to ease temperatures and smoke levels.
Bureau of Meteorology's Helen Kirkup warned the conditions, which have led to NSW’s worst bushfire season, will possibly continue throughout the summer.
"We are looking at a below-average rainfall summer so that’s not going to help anything," Kirkup said. "We are expecting, once it’s dry and it’s getting hot, we are going to have bad fire conditions persist through the summer."
Smoke from #bushfires still affecting Eastern #NSW today. #NSWRFS Smoke plumes moved further inland west reaching the #Riverina, parts of the Central & Northern West overnight. For latest visit: https://t.co/HluBGGIc3a & on air quality visit:https://t.co/RGXNf27Zam pic.twitter.com/c60nf5Gika— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 10, 2019
Featured image credit: Yudhana Sunartha