Sydney air quality worse than Beijing as fires persist

Clay Curtis
November 19, 2019

The Sydney skyline was barely visible with air quality in some parts of the city reaching over hazardous levels early Tuesday.

Six people have been killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in bushfires across New South Wales and Queensland since September, when an unusually early fire season began across drought-stricken regions in the east of the country.

Sydney woke to a thick blanket of smoke as NSW residents are urged to "stay vigilant" amid severe fire dangers and a hot, windy weather forecast.

On Tuesday morning, Sydney was ranked 14th worst in the world in terms of the overall air quality.

Most of the state's east coast is under severe or very high fire danger ratings, with more than 50 bushfires burning, of which 28 remain uncontained.

There are now nearly 50 bushfires burning across the state, all at a Watch and Act alert level.

Tuesday and Thursday will be "tough days" for NSW, Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

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The NSW Department of Environment has advised residents everyone in effected areas, and especially those with cardiovascular illnesses, to avoid unnecessary exertion until air quality improves.

"The last thing we want is lethargy or complacency or fatigue to set in when it comes to monitoring these conditions", he said.

Much of the smoke is being blown from a huge out-of-control bushfire burning across two national parks that is just 100 kilometres (62 miles) northwest of central Sydney at its closest point.

Air quality was hazardous in the Northern Tablelands and the northwest slopes on Tuesday and poor in the Hunter region, the Central Coast and Illawarra.

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott on Monday said the biggest risk this week would be firefighters becoming worn out.

A DC10 air tanker had been drafted in from North America, he said, to help drop up to 38,000 litres of water and retardant on blazes, and efforts would be bolstered by help from New Zealand firefighters.

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