World

In Sydney, smoke gets in their eyes as fires rage

SYDNEY : 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 up and down the eastern seaboard, blanketing 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 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 December 2001-January 2002," a spokesman told AFP.

"This event, however, is the longest and the most widespread in our records."

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 per cent last week.

Tourists and residents bought facemasks and stayed indoors as much as possible to combat the smoke .

Golfers at the Australian Open also complained about the smoke .

"It's tough to see your golf ball when you're out there playing, where it finishes. Your eyes do burn," said 2015 champion Matt Jones.

"I've got that cough like... phlegm in your lungs or whatever, but it's not fun. I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room." - AFP

WORLD