Sydney was shrouded in a dangerous haze on Tuesday as high winds blew smoke from bushfires blazing along Australia’s eastern coast into the country’s biggest city, sending pollution levels soaring.
Parts of the city recorded air quality levels at eight times higher than the national benchmark.
Official data showed air pollution had reached “hazardous” levels across Sydney, with the highest readings of PM 2.5 particulates in the city’s northwest reaching 186 parts per million on the air quality index.
On social media, locals have described hazy skies and the stench of smoke in their homes.
About five million people live in the state capital of New South Wales, which has been affected for weeks by fires. Health officials advised people to stay indoors and residents were warned to avoid outdoor exercise.
Officials have warned that blazes could escalate this week when heatwave conditions reach the state and neighbouring Queensland, where scores of fires are burning.
“The smoke is likely to hang around for the next few days,” warned the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.
Six people have been killed, hundreds of homes destroyed and about one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of farmland and bush devastated across New South Wales and Queensland in the fires that have swept eastern Australia in the past few weeks.
More than 110 fires are currently burning across the east, with dozens of blazes still not contained.