Sydney, Nov 21, 2019 (AFP) - The fire danger was elevated across wider swathes of southern Australia on Thursday, with residents warned to avoid at-risk areas as smoke from bushfires choked Sydney and other major cities. Devastating fires along the country's east coast have claimed six lives and destroyed more than 500 homes since mid-October, with climate change and unseasonably hot, dry conditions fuelling the unprecedented blazes. Now the fire danger has moved into states further south, with a so-called "Code Red" -- the highest possible fire risk in Victoria -- being declared in the state's northwest for the first time in a decade. "What that means is that if we see fires in those areas they will be fast moving, they will be unpredictable, they will be uncontrollable," emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp told reporters.
Country Fire Authority chief Steve Warrington told people living in rural areas to leave for the safety of cities. "We are saying, 'do not be there, do not be there when a fire occurs, because you will not survive if you are there'," he said. "There is a good chance if a fire occurs that your home will be destroyed." The fire danger was also elevated to "severe" in the island state of Tasmania off mainland Australia's southeastern coast, where a total fire ban was declared. Two bushfires in the state's northeast did not pose an immediate threat to residents, the Tasmania Fire Service said.
For the second time in two days, smoke from bushfires blanketed Sydney, Australia's biggest city and home to more than five million people, sending air quality plummeting to hazardous levels. More than 110 fires are still burning in worst-hit New South Wales and neighbouring Queensland, while in South Australia more than 40 fires broke out during catastrophic fire conditions Wednesday. A South Australia Country Fire Service spokeswoman said all of those blazes had been brought under control or extinguished by Thursday, with the exception of a major fire on the Yorke Peninsula that had come perilously close to a small town.
Conditions were expected to ease in the coming days in South Australia, where the state capital Adelaide was also shrouded in bushfire smoke and residents were being told to stay indoors for health reasons. Bushfire-prone Australia has experienced a horror start to its fire season, which scientists say is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as climate change pushes temperatures higher and saps moisture from the environment after months of severe drought. Growing calls to curb fossil fuels and drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions are being ignored by the country's conservative government, which is eager to protect its lucrative mining industry. The country is bracing for challenging fire conditions to continue throughout the Southern Hemisphere summer.
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 13:10:01 +0100 (MET) By Holly ROBERTSON, Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel De Cartert in Hillville
Sydney, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - Bushfires raging across eastern Australia singed Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday, with firefighters scrambling planes and helicopters to douse a built-up neighbourhood with water and red retardant. Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought. Although the bushfire season is in its infancy, scientists predict it to be one of Australia's toughest ever, with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.
Twin blazes in the north shore suburb of Turramurra -- around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the centre of Australia's largest city -- tore through a eucalypt forest park and sparked spot fires in homes, before eventually being brought under control. As night fell, authorities said they were bringing another "clearly suspicious" blaze in a national park in the city's southern suburbs under control. Throughout the day, more than 300 bushfires burned up and down Australia's east coast, fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland that has brought some of the most dangerous conditions the country has seen.
In Turramurra, gardens smouldered, thick smoke hung heavy in the air and cars, houses and roads were caked in raspberry-red retardant as if hit by a giant paintball. "It was the embers that floated up that actually went across and set off spot fires in the front yards" resident Nigel Lush told AFP, adding that one roof had been set alight. Another resident, Julia Gretton-Roberts, said the blaze spread shockingly quickly. "Next thing I know the fire was opposite our house and it was massive and the police came and grabbed our kids and took them away," she said. "My daughter is pretty freaked out." Firefighter Andrew Connon told AFP "a number of homes were threatened but it was contained by the aerial bombing".
- 'Catastrophic conditions' - From early morning thousands of firefighters spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions. They were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines and trapping residents who had not already evacuated. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said so far only a dozen buildings had been damaged Tuesday and a handful non-life-threatening injuries were reported, but the crisis was far from over.
Firefighters will be "working on these fires for days and weeks given the enormity of the firegrounds," he said. Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes. "The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert. "Complacency kills," he added. Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced for the affected area and Rally Australia -- due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend -- was cancelled. The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.
- 'We'll fight it first' - In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens. Like many, his family -- including his mother nursing a broken leg -- have packed their bags, but have resisted leaving their house and everything they own. "We'll fight it first," he told AFP, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."
In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre. Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog. "The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told AFP. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."
Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge". The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave late can be fatal. Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
The number of people ill in a salmonellosis outbreak linked to a brand of frozen microwave meals in Australia has jumped to 46. Public health investigations have found that sick people in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) reported consuming the products.
15 _Salmonella [enterica_ serotype] Weltevreden infections have been recorded in NSW, 12 in Queensland, 11 in South Australia, 6 in Western Australia and 2 in ACT. Previously, 15 people were part of the outbreak from NSW, South Australia and ACT. The cause of contamination is still under investigation. Core Powerfoods is assisting authorities in an investigation to confirm the source of the outbreak and has temporarily halted production.
Salmonella will not grow in frozen meals, but it may survive the freezing temperature. If food is thawed incorrectly, such as at room temperature, it will have an opportunity to grow, and if it is not reheated to above 75 degrees C (167 degrees F), it will not be killed, according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
Core Ingredients had recalled 8 frozen pre-prepared meals with best before dates from [26 Aug 2020], to [4 Oct 2020]. This has now been extended to include earlier best before dates beginning [5 Mar 2020]. Items were sold at IGA's and Coles nationally, independent retailers in NSW, ACT, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, NT and Western Australia, and a few Woolworths metro stores in Victoria.
Core Powerfoods frozen meals in a 310 or 350-gram pack size of the variety Going Nuts, Deep South Chilli, Muay Thai Meatballs, Holy Meatballs, Naked Chicken, Seismic Chicken, Old School and Smokey Mountain Meatballs are affected.
NSW Health reiterated a warning for consumers to return or dispose of Core Powerfoods frozen microwave meals. Keira Glasgow, NSW Health Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases Manager, advised consumers not to eat the products, and either throw them away or return items to the place of purchase for a refund as proof of purchase is not required for recalled food.
Glasgow said frozen food should always be cooked thoroughly following manufacturer instructions. "Microwaves are a quick and convenient way to cook food, however, if they are not used correctly, they can cook food unevenly. When using a microwave to cook food, make sure the food is heated until it is piping hot all the way through." [byline: Joe Whitworth]
[Care must be taken in the cooking of microwavable meals as many times cooking is needed, not just defrosting, and the heat in a microwave is characteristic not uniform. - ProMED Mod.LL]
Sydney, Oct 31, 2019 (AFP) - Sydney residents coughed and spluttered their way around Australia's largest metropolis Thursday, as a bank of smoke from rural bushfires enveloped the city, prompting health warnings. Smoke from out-of-control fires to the north of the city prompted health authorities to warn Sydneysiders with respiratory problems to avoid outdoor physical activity. "If you really want to keep out of the smoke, the best thing you can do is stay indoors, keep your doors and windows shut," said Richard Broome of the New South Wales ministry of health. Firefighters are struggling to contain dozens of blazes, including one caused by a lightning strike far north of the city that has ravaged an area of over 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres).
Strong winds have pushed the fumes toward Sydney, shrouding landmark buildings like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and lacing the air with an acrid taste. "The smoke will likely persist for several days and may not clear until some stage over the weekend," said New South Wales Rural Fire Service said Thursday. In contrast to many of Asia's major cities, Sydney's residents and visitors usually enjoy the city's beaches and woodland under crystalline skies and pleasant sea breezes. Authorities on Thursday rated the air quality as "hazardous", with a higher concentration of particles per million than cities like Bangkok, Jakarta or Hong Kong Kong.
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 2019 06:54:41 +0100 (MET)
Sydney, Oct 30, 2019 (AFP) - Tourism operators want aerial shark patrols to be introduced in Australia's Whitsunday Islands as they try to stem falling visitor numbers following a spate of attacks along the Great Barrier Reef. An English tourist is recovering in hospital after his foot was ripped off by a shark on Tuesday while another had his leg mauled in the same attack at a popular snorkelling spot in the region. In the past year there have been several shark attacks in waters around the Whitsundays, a chain of islands that attracts both Australian and foreign tourists. In two separate incidents late last year, a 12-year-old girl lost a leg and a man died of his injuries.
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler said tourist numbers had fallen in the past year, partly as a result of the shark attacks. "Looking back over the last 12 months I can certainly say that there has been some impact to our industry in terms of visitation," she told reporters. International visitors to the region dropped more than six percent to 226,000 in the year ending March 2019, the latest available figures. Wheeler said tourism operators were seeking government funding fo aerial patrols of the Whitsundays as an "interim measure" while research is undertaken into sharks in the area, which had been considered safe for swimming.
The latest attack comes just over a month after the Queensland state government removed dozens of unmanned shark traps, known as "drum lines", from popular swimming beaches after losing a court battle over its decades-old shark control program. The Federal Court ruled that sharks found alive on baits in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park had to be released -- which the government argued would be too dangerous for its workers to do. After Tuesday's attack, the Queensland government announced it would install 32 additional drum lines just outside the protected area.
The Humane Society International, which launched the court action, denied the most recent attack was linked to the rolling back of "outdated" shark control practices. "Installing more traditional drum lines to cull sharks is an ineffective knee jerk reaction. It doesn't work," marine campaigner Lawrence Chlebeck said in a statement. Despite tens of millions of visits to the beach in Australia annually, shark attacks remain rare. There were 27 attacks in the country's waters in 2018, according to data compiled by Sydney's Taronga Zoo.