Sydney is facing a 'public health emergency' caused by bushfire smoke

Sydney is facing a ‘public health emergency’ caused by bushfire smoke that has choked the city for weeks and created dangerously high pollution levels, doctors warn

  • More than 20 medical groups urge government to tackle the toxic air pollution
  • Pollution is 11 times the ‘hazardous level’ in parts of Sydney and New South Wales
  • Hospitals have seen a 48 percent increase in emergency respiratory problems

Sydney residents are facing a ‘public health emergency’ caused by toxic bushfire smoke that has choked the city for weeks, doctors warned today.

More than 20 medical groups, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, released a joint statement urging the Australian government to take urgent action to tackle the problem. 

Hundreds of climate change-fuelled bushfires have been raging across Australia for months, with a ‘mega-blaze’ burning north of Sydney destroying several homes overnight and fires near Perth threatening towns.

A 70-metre high wall of flames bore down in the Blue Mountains, north-west of Sydney overnight,

Sydney has been covered under a blanket of thick smoke for weeks, and the situation is set to continue until January

Pictured: A bright red sun sits over the Sydney city skyline

The statement from the Climate and Health Alliance said: ‘The air pollution in New South Wales is a public health emergency.

‘Smoke from bushfires has produced air pollution of up to 11 times the base “hazardous” level in parts of Sydney and New South Wales.

‘Bushfire smoke is particularly hazardous because of the high levels of tiny particles (PM2.5).’

Meanwhile, the New South Wales state health department said it recorded a 48 percent increase in the number of people visiting hospital emergency rooms with respiratory problems in the week ending December 11 compared to the five-year average.

Heavily polluted air has turned the sun bright red (pictured), giving the already smoky city an apocalyptic atmosphere  

Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens suffered damage from the Gospers Mountain Fire Sunday evening gas it travelled from Mt Wilson east towards Bilpin

Early hours of the morning the fire front can be seen burning out of control in the valleys to the east of the gardens

Visits spiked 80 per cent on December 10, when air quality plummeted across Sydney prompting up to 20,000 residents of Australia’s biggest city to march in protest the following day.

Many residents have started wearing masks to protect themselves although locals said today that the situation had improved since last week. 

A bushfire emergency destroyed a number of homes in the Blue Mountains on Sunday night. The blaze was sparked by a backburn that got out of hand 

An image taken on a smart phone from a plane window, captures smoke from bushfires burning around the Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains resident Nina Lipscombe, who is originally from Tennessee in the US, captured the devastation in photos taken from different lookout points at the national park

The Climate and Health Alliance called on the government to take urgent action to curb emissions, saying climate change is worsening bushfires that are having ‘devastating impacts on human health’. 

‘The air pollution events resulting from bushfires will become more and more frequent and are a result of climate change,’ it said.

‘Our governments must act quickly to rapidly and deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which we know are driving climate change.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week made a rare admission that climate change is one of the ‘factors’ behind the fires, but defended Australia’s record on emissions reduction and failed to announce further measures to address the issue.

The Gospers Mountain fire was at ‘watch and act’ level early Monday after firefighters worked overnight to contain the blaze around Mt Wilson, Mt Tomah and Berambing

Many residents have begun wearing masks in a bid to lessen the impact on their lungs

Six people have been killed, more than 700 houses destroyed and at least three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land have burned this bushfire season. 

The devastating fires have focused attention on climate change, with scientists saying the blazes have come earlier and with more intensity than usual due to global warming and a prolonged drought that has also caused towns to run out of drinking water and forced farmers off their land.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday singled out bushfires and drought as the biggest domestic challenges for the economy, telling reporters in Canberra the dry spell had taken a quarter of a percentage point off GDP growth and reduced farm output by ‘a significant amount’ over the past two years.

Official data shows 2019 is on track to be one of the hottest and driest years on record in Australia, with the country set to experience a heatwave this week that forecasters predict will break temperature records.

Stunning photographs show thick plumes of smoke billowing from the mountains and filling the skies from Govette’s Leap lookout on Sunday

The fire ground stretched from the Lithgow area in the west, through the Hawkesbury area and towards the Central Coast in the east

High levels of air pollution brought on by bushfire smoke has led to a public health emergency in Sydney, medical groups said. Pedestrians have been seen wearing masks as smoke haze blankets the CBD

In a statement on Sunday evening, the NSW Rural Fire Service said the Gospers Mountain fire was impacting Mount Wilson, Mount Irvine, Mount Tomah and Berambing. ‘It is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches. Protect yourself from the heat of the fire,’ the emergency warning said

Pictured: Smoke over the Blue Mountains. The Gospers Mountain blaze is more than 378,000 hectares in size and ravaging the Blue Mountains

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