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Hazardous bushfire smog chokes Melbourne as smoke threatens to stop play at Australian Open

Bushfire smoke continues to choke Melbourne, a day after the city recorded the worst air quality in the world.

Thick smoke stretched from fire-ravaged Gippsland, past Melbourne to Geelong, with ‘hazardous’ air quality recorded across most of Victoria on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, Environment Protection Authority Victoria said there was a slight improvement overnight but the air quality was still ‘very poor’ in Melbourne.

But the conditions could return to ‘hazardous’ later in the day, posing a threat to athletes competing in the Australian Open.  

Pictured: Bushfire smoke continued to chock Melbourne on Wednesday morning 

Thick smoke stretched from fire-ravaged Gippsland, past Melbourne to Geelong, with 'hazardous' air quality recorded across most of the state on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Environment Protection Authority Victoria said there was a slight improvement overnight but the air quality was still 'very poor' in Melbourne

Thick smoke stretched from fire-ravaged Gippsland, past Melbourne to Geelong, with ‘hazardous’ air quality recorded across most of the state on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Environment Protection Authority Victoria said there was a slight improvement overnight but the air quality was still ‘very poor’ in Melbourne

Racing Victoria has abandoned meets at Caulfield and Yarra Valley due to the smoke haze and poor air quality, it tweeted on Wednesday.

They said the conditions were unlikely to improve throughout the day, deeming it ‘unsuitable’ for racing. 

The Bureau of Meteorology said there was widespread smoke across central and eastern Victoria on Wednesday, which would not begin to ease until the afternoon.

‘But is not expected to clear properly until Wednesday night,’ the bureau said.

Thunderstorms are also forecast, with severe storms expected to hit central districts during the afternoon and early evening. The bureau has warned of the possibility of flash flooding due to heavy rainfall.   

Melbournians woke to their city skyline again blanketed in a thick haze on Wednesday morning.

Racing Victoria has abandoned meets at Caulfield and Yarra Valley due to the smoke haze and poor air quality, it tweeted on Wednesday. Pictured: Smoke haze hovers over the sun

Racing Victoria has abandoned meets at Caulfield and Yarra Valley due to the smoke haze and poor air quality, it tweeted on Wednesday. Pictured: Smoke haze hovers over the sun

The Bureau of Meteorology said there was widespread smoke across central and eastern Victoria on Wednesday, which would not begin to ease until the afternoon

The Bureau of Meteorology said there was widespread smoke across central and eastern Victoria on Wednesday, which would not begin to ease until the afternoon

‘I can definitely smell and taste the smoke today, and to a point it actually feels like you’re chocking on every breath you take in,’ one resident wrote on Twitter.

‘Just walked out of my room to the smell of and I can’t see a damn thing outside, the smoke from all the fires have come across to Melbourne,’ said another. 

The CFMEU says there should be ‘no outdoor work’ while air quality conditions remain ‘very poor’ or ‘hazardous’. 

‘All personnel should be relocated to a healthier and safe environment, such as an air-conditioned space,’ the union said in a alert.

‘This is a healthy and safety issue, not an inclement weather issue.’ 

Slovenian player Dalila Jakupovic collapsed on the court mid-match on Tuesday after suffering a coughing fit

Slovenian player Dalila Jakupovic collapsed on the court mid-match on Tuesday after suffering a coughing fit 

Eugenie Bouchard was forced into taking a medical time-out during Australian Open qualifying

Eugenie Bouchard was forced into taking a medical time-out during Australian Open qualifying

A number of tennis players complained about the conditions in Melbourne on Tuesday, including Australian Bernard Tomic, who sought medical treatment during his first round loss when he struggled to breathe.

Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic feared she would pass out before retiring from her match when she collapsed to her knees with a coughing fit, while Eugenie Bouchard took a medical time-out during qualifying as she fell ill in the smoky conditions. 

Health authorities expect the air quality to bounce between the ‘very poor to hazardous range’ until at least Wednesday afternoon, with a top temperature of 34 before a late change that’s set to bring rain.

Tennis Australia says it will continue to work with their medical team, the Bureau of Meterology and Environment Protection Authority Victoria scientists when making decisions about whether it’s safe to play.

TA says it has installed measuring devices on-site for air quality, with play cleared to continue during the opening round of qualifying.

Melbournians woke to their city skyline again blanketed in a thick haze on Wednesday morning

Melbournians woke to their city skyline again blanketed in a thick haze on Wednesday morning

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday: 'Overnight for Melbourne it did reach the worst in the world.' Pictured: Smoke haze in Melbourne on Wednesday

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday: ‘Overnight for Melbourne it did reach the worst in the world.’ Pictured: Smoke haze in Melbourne on Wednesday

A worker wears a face mask amid smoke haze from bushfires in Melbourne on Tuesday. The CFMEU says there should be 'no outdoor work' while air quality conditions remain 'very poor' or 'hazardous'

A worker wears a face mask amid smoke haze from bushfires in Melbourne on Tuesday. The CFMEU says there should be ‘no outdoor work’ while air quality conditions remain ‘very poor’ or ‘hazardous’

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday: ‘Overnight for Melbourne it did reach the worst in the world.’

Vulnerable groups like children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions should stay inside, he added. 

There are 17 fires still ablaze in Victoria and more than 1.4 million hectares burnt.

There are 1500 firefighters battling the blazes, including 130 from overseas and another 140 international personnel will arrive later in January.

The smoke haze is expected to lift as a wind change and rain moves through, but sporadic thunderstorms are also forecast.

There are fears the rain will cause flash flooding and land slips in fire-affected areas because of the loss of vegetation and that lightning could spark even more fires.

There are 17 fires still ablaze in Victoria and more than 1.4 million hectares burnt

There are 17 fires still ablaze in Victoria and more than 1.4 million hectares burnt

 

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