Air quality in Melbourne tanks, Australian Open hit too

Melbourne, Australia’ second biggest city after Sydney, witnesses ‘worst’ air quality amid bushfires.

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The air quality in Melbourne has deteriorated to become the ‘worst in the world’ as massive bushfires engulfed Australia’s second biggest city.

Melbourne, that ranks among the most ‘liveable’ cities in the world, is witnessing ‘hazardous’ air quality owing to the bushfire crisis.

“I think overnight for Melbourne it did reach the worst in the world,” Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said. Sutton said warmer temperatures would help lift particulate matter that had rendered the air quality poor.

He warned that people might experience worsening cough, apart from dry nose and throat. “For those vulnerable groups—over 65s, under 15, pregnant women and people with existing lung or heart disease or diabetes—we are saying avoid exposure to the smoke by staying indoors and limiting physical activity,” he said.

Rain to bring some relief

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast rains through the week, bringing some relief to the bushfire affected communities and the firefighters.

Weather reports by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said widespread rainfall was expected for the east coast of the country, including the fire-grounds, starting Tuesday, and lasting into the weekend.

Australian Open affected

Toxic smoke from raging bushfires have hit the Australian Open too. A qualifier retired with breathing difficulties and Eugenie Bouchard needed medical attention, while other players struggled in soaring pollution.

Qualifying for the first Grand Slam of the year started late due to the reining conditions and Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic did not cope well, bringing an early end to her match against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele after a coughing fit.

“I was really scared that I would collapse. That’s why I went onto the floor because I couldn’t walk anymore,” she told the media. “It’s not healthy for us,” she added.

Former Australian Open semi-finalist Bouchard also had problems and needed a medical time-out after reportedly complaining of a sore chest. She recovered to win the third set and the match.

Elsewhere in Melbourne, Russian ace tennis player Maria Sharapova took to the court as scheduled against Germany’s Laura Siegemund at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament. Both the players had struggled in the heat and smoke in Melbourne. The match was called off late in the second set.

Damage so far

The raging Australian bushfires, one of the worst in history, has so far claimed over 26 lives, gutted over 10 million hectare of land, destroyed over 2,000 homes and pushed many species on the verge of extinction.

The bushfires have had a devastating impact on the natural habitat like that of Koalas—the herbivorous marsupial animal native to Australia. The animals have become a big focus for the Australian government ever since the destruction of nearly 30% of their habitat in bushfires. By now approximately half of the Koala population in the Kangaroo Island, described as Australia’s Galapagos Islands, has been affected.

New Delhi | PBNS Bureau