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05 Dec 2019 | 05:48 AM UTC

Australia: Wildfire emergency warning issued near Sydney and the Central Coast December 5 /update 12

Emergency warning prompts evacuations in the outskirts of Sydney and the Central Coast December 5; heightened security and transportation disruptions expected

environment
health
transportation
AUS

Event

On Thursday, December 5, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) issued an emergency warning for Little L Complex, Currowan, Three Mile, and Green Wattle Creek, and have ordered the evacuation of Gosper Mountains. The University of Sydney announced the evacuation of its Camden and Molonglo campuses in the evening (local time). Containment efforts are ongoing and 117 active hotspots were still recorded across the state, 60 of which had yet to be contained at around 19:30.

Smoke from nearby wildfires has caused air quality ratings in Sydney to reach "unhealthy" levels on Thursday, with an Air Quality Index (AQI) reading of 160 at 18:00. The NSW Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has also issued a road safety alert in for Sydney for poor visibility due to fire-related haze, in effect through at least the morning of Friday, December 6. The southern and southwestern suburbs of Sydney are forecast to be the most affected.

Further spread of the fires is possible over the coming days and weeks. A heightened security presence, road closures, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires can be found on the NSW RFS website here.

Context

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.

Advice

Individuals present 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.