Motorists drive in unbelievable conditions as thick smoke descends on Sydney’s M1

Motorists drive in unbelievable conditions as thick smoke descends on Sydney's M1

Sydneysiders have been blanketed by a thick haze on Tuesday morning as dangerous bushfires blazing across New South Wales continue to push hazardous smoke over the harbour city.

Visibility was so low that Sydney ferries were forced to stop running, as smoke infiltrated train stations and set off fire alarms, causing havoc for the public transport system.

Buses will replace ferries between the city and Manly on the northern beaches, but no other routes will receive additional services. Sydney Ferries suggested commuters ‘delay their journeys’.

Transport NSW also warned some customers may be overcharged for their fares as Opal gates would be affected. 

Particulate readings of 778 for PM2.5 in Mona Vale on the city’s north-east coast meant the suburb had the highest reported pollution levels in the world on Tuesday morning. 

By comparison, Shanghai had a PM2.5 level of 188 while Hong Kong had a reading of just 135 at midday. 

Sydneysiders have been blanketed by a thick haze on Tuesday morning as dangerous bushfires blazing across New South Wales continue to push hazardous smoke over the city

In Bondi, meanwhile, the beach could barely be seen from the foreshore.

Traffic camera footage on the M1 highway about 50km north of Sydney, meanwhile, showed visibility down to a matter of metres

Traffic camera footage on the M1 highway about 50km north of Sydney, meanwhile, showed visibility down to a matter of metres

This map shows the fires currently burning across New South Wales and pushing smoke into the Sydney basin

This map shows the fires currently burning across New South Wales and pushing smoke into the Sydney basin

Traffic camera footage on the M1 highway about 50km north of Sydney showed people couldn’t see further than a few metres ahead as the state’s health authorities warned the ‘grotty’ smoke pollution was a recipe for severe illness.  

The smoke was so strong the state’s Rural Fire Service headquarters in Sydney’s western suburbs was evacuated, while Rouse Hill, St Mary’s and Richmond have all recorded PM2.5 particle readings defined as hazardous by the Bureau of Meteorology.

In Bondi the beach could barely be seen from the foreshore.   

The heavy smoke had actually held back the force of the state’s 85 bushfires, according to the NSW RFS, although they warned conditions may again worsen in the afternoon when winds pick up.

As of 12pm, 2,700 firefighters were battling 85 fires burning across the state – 42 of which were uncontained. 

A total fire ban is now in place for nine areas across NSW. 

Particulate readings for PM2.5 in Mona Vale (haze pictured) on the city's north-east coast meant the suburb had the highest reported pollution levels in the world on Tuesday morning

Particulate readings for PM2.5 in Mona Vale (haze pictured) on the city’s north-east coast meant the suburb had the highest reported pollution levels in the world on Tuesday morning

The BoM said the smoke had been trapped in the lower atmosphere and had then concentrated, although a southerly buster in the afternoon would help to reduce the smoke – especially closer to the coast.

The smoke build-up has also forced the cancellation of the traditional Sydney to Hobart lead-up race, the Big Boat Challenge, for safety reasons.  

Supermaxis Wild Oats XI, Black Jack, SHK Scallywag and InfoTrack, plus smaller boats Naval Group and URM, were listed to contest the race scheduled to start at 1230pm (AEDT).

‘We’re very disappointed to abandon the 2019 Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge but for the safety of spectators, public and competitors, we made the call,’ Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Paul Billingham said.

‘The safety of all competitors, in addition to those working on the harbour, is extremely important to us and our number one priority.’

A cyclist was pictured with a heavy smoke mask on his face for his morning commute on Tuesday

A Sydney commuter wore a mask to protect her lungs from the thick smoke

Commuters in Sydney were seen wearing masks as the city was covered in a thick blanket of smoke 

In Parramatta, the urban skyline had a similar level of poor visibility as the smoke was trapped in the lower atmosphere

In Parramatta, the urban skyline had a similar level of poor visibility as the smoke was trapped in the lower atmosphere

The thick smog over Barangaroo in Sydney's CBD significantly reduced visibility as Tuesday morning progressed

The thick smog over Barangaroo in Sydney’s CBD significantly reduced visibility as Tuesday morning progressed

The visibility on the Anzac Bridge was also affected by the smoke hovering over the harbour city

The conditions on Tuesday will also increase the level of stress on vulnerable people in the coming days, authorities warned.

NSW Health environmental health director Dr Richard Broome said it would be likely to be ‘very hot and very smoky’.

‘Hot weather and poor air quality are a recipe for severe illness,’ he said. 

Sydney Harbour Bridge was invisible behind the dense mist (pictured top, Sydney's harbour bridge on a normal day and bottom on Tuesday at about 11am)

Sydney Harbour Bridge was invisible behind the dense mist (pictured top, Sydney’s harbour bridge on a normal day and bottom on Tuesday at about 11am)

Visibility in Surry Hills in Sydney's inner city was similarly affected. Skyline is pictured before top, and on Tuesday on the bottom

Visibility in Surry Hills in Sydney’s inner city was similarly affected. Skyline is pictured before top, and on Tuesday on the bottom

The Sydney Opera House was almost completely shrouded in the smog for those looking across the harbour from Milsons Point

The Sydney Opera House was almost completely shrouded in the smog for those looking across the harbour from Milsons Point

‘It’s going to be putting a lot of stress on vulnerable people, particularly elderly people who have existing heat and lung conditions.’

The NSW environment department noted air quality would be ‘poor’ in Sydney on Tuesday and could ’cause symptoms, especially in people with heart or lung disease’.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said wind speeds on Tuesday won’t be as high as previous dangerous bushfire days, but high temperatures and low humidity would cancel this out.

Firefighting crews spent Monday evening back burning around the Gospers Mountain mega-fire on the Central Coast.

A surfer in Bondi was forced to cover his mouth as thick smoke blew over the beach and the city's eastern suburbs

A surfer in Bondi was forced to cover his mouth as thick smoke blew over the beach and the city’s eastern suburbs 

The NSW environment department noted air quality would be 'poor' in Sydney on Tuesday and could 'cause symptoms, especially in people with heart or lung disease

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says drought-stricken NSW could be in for a 'horror summer' (pictured, smoke shrouds Rose Bay in Sydney's eastern suburbs)

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says drought-stricken NSW could be in for a ‘horror summer’ (pictured, smoke shrouds Rose Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs)

The thick smoke in Sydney has been rated as some of the worst in the world for PM2.5 readings on Tuesday

The thick smoke in Sydney has been rated as some of the worst in the world for PM2.5 readings on Tuesday

Suncorp bank in Sydney's CBD was shut on Tuesday due to the poor air quality

Suncorp bank in Sydney’s CBD was shut on Tuesday due to the poor air quality 

‘These critical operations are being conducted to protect homes ahead of hot and windy weather forecast for tomorrow,’ the RFS said on social media on Monday evening.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says drought-stricken NSW could be in for a ‘horror summer’.

‘(Tuesday) is a very dangerous day for NSW given the combination of very hot, windy conditions and that has been lethal in the last few months,’ she told reporters on Monday.

There were almost 90 fires burning across NSW on Monday evening with 39 of those out of control.

A thick blanket of smoke settled over Sydney (pictured) on Tuesday morning

A thick blanket of smoke settled over Sydney (pictured) on Tuesday morning

A Rural Fire Service officer establishes a backburn to contain a bushfire in Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales on Saturday

A Rural Fire Service officer establishes a backburn to contain a bushfire in Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales on Saturday

Thick smoke travelled to Sydney and settled in the basin again on Tuesday morning (Pictured: Harbour Bridge)

Thick smoke travelled to Sydney and settled in the basin again on Tuesday morning (Pictured: Harbour Bridge)

A traveller captures thick smoke covering Sydney CBD and harbour

A traveller captures thick smoke covering Sydney CBD and harbour

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is calling for a national approach to fighting and preventing bushfires, as well as dealing with the current bushfire crisis.

Mr Albanese says a greater response is needed and the national government should be providing leadership on these issues.

‘I wrote to Scott Morrison three weeks ago. He wrote back to me saying (a national response) wasn’t required and that everything was in hand,’ he told the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night.

‘This is concerning. Stay safe Sydney,’ one person wrote about the conditions with a picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge  

‘Quite clearly it’s not.’

Mr Albanese said it’s clear Australia is not fully in control of the bushfire situation.

The NSW emergency services minister was also criticised by a leading scientist after dismissing the climate change concerns of Australian fire chiefs as inappropriate and ‘quite unpalatable’.

Former emergency services bosses urged the federal government to declare a climate emergency as devastating bushfires raged across NSW and Queensland.

Emergency services minister David Elliott was asked about these concerns during an interview with the BBC over the weekend.

‘As the emergency services minister, I’ve said that I don’t think it’s appropriate to use a natural disaster of this size for political gain,’ he told the BBC.

‘I think that’s quite unpalatable.’

But leading oceanographer and UNSW climate scientist Professor Matthew England told AAP the Australian public was sick of ‘head in the sand’ politics when it comes to climate change.

‘I actually think it’s unpalatable to stifle a discussion on climate change like this,’ he said.

Much of Australia is facing extreme weather conditions on Tuesday, with some parts of  the state reaching 46C

Much of Australia is facing extreme weather conditions on Tuesday, with some parts of  the state reaching 46C

‘Here we have a group of fire chiefs with a deep experience of fire control over Australia, professionals who have seen changes over the course of many decades, and who understand the science enough to call politicians to account for their lack of action on this issue.

‘This was a refreshing moment in the public discourse around climate change’.

A recent survey released by UNSW shows a majority of Australians think it is right to discuss climate change during natural disasters such as bushfires.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly argued against discussing the link between climate change and bushfires at the height of emergency work.

Smoke has made it almost impossible to see into the distance in some parts of Sydney (pictured on Tuesday morning)

Smoke has made it almost impossible to see into the distance in some parts of Sydney (pictured on Tuesday morning)

But according to the UNSW community survey released on Friday, some 53 per cent of respondents disagree.

Just 35 per cent of Australians surveyed said it’s not okay.

‘The Australian public clearly want this issue discussed, they are looking to our political leaders for decisive action on climate change,’ Prof England said.

‘The last thing the Australian public wants is a head-in-the-sand approach to this pressing problem that is already having a negative impact on our nation’s environment, our economy and our way of life.’ 

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