Australia: Smoke engulfs Sydney, as bushfires spread south | News | DW | 21.11.2019

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Australia: Smoke engulfs Sydney, as bushfires spread south

Authorities have advised Sydney residents with respiratory or heart problems, and schoolchildren to stay indoors. The smog covering the city has caused air pollution levels to rise 10 times higher than normal.

Australia's largest city was enveloped by smog and poor air quality on Thursday, as high temperatures and strong winds kept bushfires raging in the north of the country. Sydney's iconic skyline was blurred and barely visible, due to the smog. 

More than 110 fires are still burning in the worst-hit part of the country, the state of New South Wales.

Warnings issued

  • Authorities advised residents with respiratory problems or heart conditions to stay indoors and seek medical advice, if needed.
  • Health officials also told schools to keep children inside.
  • Air pollution levels in Sydney were nearly 10 times higher than the national standard.
  • Weather experts said the smoke was unlikely to clear for several days, as bushfires continue to burn.

What caused the fires?

Fires are common in Australia's summer, but this year has been particularly unusual. A combination of factors such as drought and unseasonably hot, dry and windy conditions, have fueled the bushfires for weeks. The state of Queensland has also been affected, while new fires are now developing in South Australia. Even Tasmania, the southernmost point of the country, is now under a severe fire alert.

Read more: Australia's koalas threatened by deforestation and bushfires

Addressing climate change

Speaking of the unprecedented fire season this year, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied that his climate policies were to blame and insisted his government was doing enough to tackle global warming.

"To suggest that with just 1.3% of global emissions that Australia doing something differently — more or less — would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don't think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all," Morrison told ABC radio.

The Australian prime minister has been facing calls to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to rapidly transition to renewable energy. But the debate is a sensitive one, due to the lucrative nature of the mining sector in Australia.

jcg/rt (Reuters, AP)

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