Sydney smoke crisis ‘longest on record’

Australian authorities on December 5 said the toxic smoke that has enshrouded Sydney for much of November is unprecedented. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2019

Sydney smoke crisis ‘longest on record’

  • Hundreds of bushfires have burned out of control since September up and down the eastern seaboard
  • The New South Wales department of environment decalred bushfires and dust had caused “some of the highest air pollution ever seen” in Australia

SYDNEY: Australian bushfires have caused unprecedented pollution in Sydney and along the country’s east coast, officials said Thursday, with smoke and dust burning residents’ eyes and prompting a spike in respiratory complaints.
Hundreds of bushfires have burned out of control since September up and down the eastern seaboard, blanketing cities from Sydney to Brisbane in smoke for weeks on end.
The extent of the crisis was made clear Thursday, with the New South Wales department of environment declaring bushfires and dust had caused “some of the highest air pollution ever seen” in Australia.
The region “has experienced other periods of poor air quality that lasted several weeks, including the 1994 Sydney bushfires and the Black Christmas bushfires of Dec 2001-Jan 2002,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
“This event, however, is the longest and the most widespread in our records.”
New South Wales Rural Fire Service said more than a dozen fires were burning near Sydney on Thursday, including three that carried an emergency warning.
For three weeks the city has seen almost daily air quality warnings.
Bushfires are common in Australia, but scientists say this year’s season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought fueled by climate change.
New South Wales health officials said more people with asthma were turning up at hospitals, and ambulance call-outs for breathing problems were up 24 percent in the week to December 1.
Meanwhile, tourists and residents took measures to combat the smoke, buying facemasks and staying indoors as much as possible.
On Thursday, Sydney’s air quality index registered fine particulate pollution — small enough to penetrate deep inside the lungs — at over 160 parts per million, far above levels considered to be safe.
Local newspapers and television have posted advice about how to limit the impact of the smoke — offering tips on what masks to buy and what activities are safest.
The smoke caused golfers at the Australian Open — one of the world’s oldest national opens — to complain about conditions.
“It’s tough to see your golf ball when you’re out there playing, where it finishes. Your eyes do burn,” said 2015 champion Matt Jones.
“I’ve got that cough like you’ve got something in your lungs, phlegm in your lungs or whatever, but it’s not fun,” he said. “I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room.”

Related


Trump calls for investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Minnesota

Updated 58 min 50 sec ago

Trump calls for investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Minnesota

  • Right-wing website claims activists linked to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s campaign are involved in illegal ‘ballet harvesting’

US: US President Donald Trump on Monday called on the Justice Department to investigate allegations of illegal voting activity by activists linked to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s campaign.

The claims were made in a story published on Sunday by right-wing website Project Veritas, the founder and CEO of which is Conservative activist James O’Keefe. It alleges that workers with connections to Omar were involved in illegal “ballot harvesting” in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which she has represented since 2019, and that some voters were paid to vote for Democratic candidates.

Ballot harvesting refers to a practice in which a third party collects completed absentee ballots from voters’ homes and drops them off at polling stations. This is not illegal in many states, but there are often limits on how many ballots one person can harvest.

In a message posted on Twitter, Trump said: “This is totally illegal. Hope that the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota has this, and other of her many misdeeds, under serious review??? If not, why not???”

The Project Veritas story, which was published on the same day as the New York Times published details of Trump’s tax returns, includes details of a series of videos it said was posted on Snapchat in early July by Liban Mohammed, the brother of Minneapolis City Council member Jamal Osman. In them, he talks about harvesting ballots to help his brother in an Aug. 11 city council election.

He said, in a mix of English and Somali: “Money is everything. Money is the king in this world. If you got no money, you should not be here, period. You know what i am saying? Money is everything and a campaign is managed by money … numbers do not lie. Numbers do not lie.

“You can see my car is full. All these here are absentee ballots … all of these are for Jamal Osman. Look, look. Just today we got 300 (ballots) for Jamal Osman.”

O’Keefe claimed that the extent of the ballot harvesting was astounding.

“Ballot harvesting is real and it has become a big business,” he said. “Our investigation into this ballot-harvesting ring demonstrates clearly how these unscrupulous operators exploit the elderly and immigrant communities — and have turned the sacred ballot box into a commodities trading desk.

“We are showing Americans what is really going on in one of our great cities — but, it's not me saying — we have the operators on tape saying it all themselves.”

Last month, Omar won the 5th Congressional District’s Democratic Primary and will face Republican Lacy Johnson in the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election. The district — which was previously held by Keith Ellison, who is now Minnesota’s Attorney General — is overwhelmingly Democratic and Omar is expected to easily win.

Omar’s office did not respond to a request for a comment about the Project Veritas story. Newsweek reported that a spokesperson for the congresswoman stated that Mohammed does not work for her.

In response to Trump’s tweet, Omar wrote: “Years of tax evasion … Trying to rush through the confirmation of a right-wing extremist Supreme Court nominee … Lies and inaction that have lead to the preventable deaths of 200,000 people. This is what we’re up against. Stay focused.”

Minnesota is one of several “battleground states” in the upcoming presidential election, in which the result is expected to be very close. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state with 46.4 percent of the vote to Trump’s 44.9 percent — a difference of only 44,593 votes.