Aus­tralians protest as haze sparks health fears

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Syd­ney, Aus­tralia - Up to 20,000 pro­test­ers ral­lied in Syd­ney on Wed­nes­day de­mand­ing ur­gent cli­mate ac­tion from Aus­tralia’s govern­ment, as bush­fire smoke chok­ing the city caused health prob­lems to spike.

Syd­ney has en­dured weeks bathed in toxic smoke as hun­dreds of blazes have raged across the coun­try­side, with hos­pi­tals record­ing a 25 per cent in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple vis­it­ing emer­gency de­part­ments last week.

On Tues­day smoke alarms rang out across Aus­tralia’s big­gest city, with thick haze trig­ger­ing smoke alarms and forc­ing build­ings to be evac­u­ated, school chil­dren to be kept in­doors, and fer­ries to be can­celled.

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. Po­lice es­ti­mated the crowd size at 15,000, or­gan­is­ers put the fig­ure at 20,000.

Many of the pro­test­ers voiced anger at the govern­ment’s si­lence in the face of the cri­sis.

“The coun­try is on fire,” said 26 year old Sa­muel Wilkie at­tend­ing his first cli­mate protest. He de­scribed politi­cians’ re­sponse as ‘pa­thetic’. “Our govern­ment is not do­ing any­thing about it,” said 29 year old land­scape gar­dener Zara Zoe. ‘No one is lis­ten­ing, no one is do­ing any­thing.”

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son - a staunch backer of Aus­tralia’s vast coal in­dus­try - has said lit­tle about the smoke since the cri­sis be­gan, pre­fer­ring to fo­cus on fire-hit ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Or­gan­iser Chloe Raf­ferty said that had cre­ated anger at the con­ser­va­tive govern­ment’s in­ac­tion. “I think the wider pub­lic can see that we are not ex­pect­ing the cli­mate cri­sis in the fu­ture but we are fac­ing the cli­mate cri­sis now,” she said.

“Peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it in their day-to-day lives.”

As well as a rise in peo­ple vis­it­ing hos­pi­tals with smoke-re­lated health symp­toms, the num­ber of emer­gency calls for am­bu­lances spiked 30 per cent last week.

“For most peo­ple, smoke causes mild symp­toms like sore eyes, nose and throat,” top health de­part­ment of­fi­cial Richard Broome said.

“How­ever, peo­ple with con­di­tions like asthma, em­phy­sema and angina are at greater risk be­cause the smoke can trig­ger their symp­toms.”

Smoke from bush­fires is one of the big­gest con­trib­u­tors to air pol­lu­tion in Aus­tralia, re­leas­ing fine par­ti­cles that can lodge deep within peo­ple’s lungs and cause ‘se­vere’ health im­pacts over time, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tist Mick Meyer from govern­ment-funded sci­en­tific re­search agency CSIRO. ‘The im­pact of smoke on peo­ple re­mote from the fires may, on oc­ca­sion, sub­stan­tially ex­ceed the di­rect in­jury to peo­ple within the fire zone’, he wrote in The Con­ver­sa­tion.


Peo­ple gather in front of the Town Hall dur­ing a cli­mate protest rally in Syd­ney on Wed­nes­day

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