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Sydney smoke 'unlikely to clear for days' as bushfires burn around NSW

By Jessica Kidd, Thursday November 21, 2019 - 16:48 EDT
ABC image
Thick bushfire smoke blankets the Sydney skyline. - ABC

Sydneysiders have been warned the thick smoke haze covering the city will remain for days, as the air quality plummeted to "hazardous" levels for the second time this week.

The Harbour City's landmarks were barely visible as smoke from dozens of bushfires burning in NSW settled over Sydney, the Illawarra, North Coast and Central Coast.

Authorities warned children, the elderly and anyone with heart or lung conditions should avoid exercising outdoors.

It comes after Sydney was shrouded in smoke on Tuesday, when residents woke to a haze which cleared by mid-afternoon.

However, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) warned it was here to stay this time.

Several locations in Greater Sydney had an Air Quality Index (AQI) over 1,000 this morning, with Prospect reaching 1,699; Parramatta North at 1,239; and the CBD reaching 626.

Anything more than 200 is considered "hazardous".

These were some of the city's hotspots about 1.30pm.
CBD 281
Richmond 1,290
Camden 445
St Marys 520
Parramatta North 157
Rouse Hill 168

The RFS said the haze in Sydney was a mixture of bushfire smoke and dust from western NSW, which is also suffering from extremely poor air quality.

In Armidale on Thursday afternoon the AQI stood at 1,565, while Orange was at 613 and Tamworth 543.

Dr Richard Broome from NSW Health advised schools to keep children inside.

"They're often more active particularly outdoors so they're more likely to inhale the smoke in large quantities," he said.

"It's important that if you do have children [to] just try and keep them indoors or discourage them from exercising too much outside."

Total fire bans are in place across 12 NSW regions, with hot and windy conditions forecast for much of the state and temperatures set to reach into the high 30s and low 40s in the south and west.

James Morris from the RFS said the fire threat was still high in areas where a total fire ban had not been declared.

"Over the past 12 or so weeks, we have seen fires do more destruction under these conditions than we have at the more elevated fire danger ratings," he said.

"So it's important people remain vigilant.

"There's very high to severe fire dangers and that'll be bolstered by some winds that we're expecting to get up to 40 to 50 kilometres per hour, especially in the south western parts of NSW."

The RFS said more than 600 homes had been destroyed this bushfire season, with 503 of those in the past fortnight.

It said 612 homes had been wiped out in total, but more than 7,000 buildings in the line of fire had been saved by firefighters or members of the community.


© ABC 2019

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