As of Friday, November 22, hazy conditions (dust, smoke, and vapor) have been reported in Sydney for the fourth consecutive day, due to ongoing fires in New South Wales (NSW). The haze has reduced visibility and created health hazards across the city. An unhealthy Air Quality Index (AQI) of 153 has been recorded in Rouse Hill and Richmond, and an AQI reading of 131 has been reported in the north west of the city at around 18:00 (local time). The air quality is forecast to improve slightly through Sunday, November 24, before reaching hazardous levels on Monday, November 25.
Containment efforts are ongoing in NSW as wildfires continue to spread throughout the state. According to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), 62 bush fires were still ongoing as of 21:00, 24 of which remained uncontained.
A heightened security presence, road closures, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Officials may issue evacuation orders. Up-to-date information on the fires and warnings can be found on the NSW RFS website here.
Over 1 million hectares (2,471,053 acres) of land have been burned since the wildfires broke out in NSW on October 9. Authorities have indicated that the fires are due to high temperatures and drought. At least six people have died, and 530 homes have been destroyed as a result of the bushfires.
Wildfires are an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.
An AQI reading of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 moderate, and 101-200+ unhealthy.
Individuals in New South Wales are advised to keep abreast of warnings and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders. As high temperatures are expected in the near-term, individuals are also advised to remain hydrated and minimize outdoor activities. Furthermore, individuals should limit outdoor activities until the situation normalizes and those with chronic respiratory illnesses should exercise increased caution; seek medical attention if experiencing breathing difficulties or other health concerns.
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