Feature: Masks, air conditioners and closed shops: Australian capital shadowed by smoke

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-06 17:34:55|Editor: Yurou
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CANBERRA, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- The smoke from bushfires has been affecting the lives of Canberrans, who are beginning to take measures for their health.

The Australian capital has been blanketed in bushfire smoke since the end of last year, and the air quality was, at some point, ranked as the worst in all world's major cities.

A Ms. Xu, who has two children aged at six and eight, said the air was chocking.

"I am considering going back to China for the Spring Festival," she said. She talked about a friend, whose 17-month-old baby died of asthma.

According to local media, an elderly woman has died of respiratory distress in Canberra after disembarking from a plane from Brisbane.

On Sunday when the sky in Canberra turned yellow even orange with the air pollution, Xinhua reporters saw salespeople in Costco, one of the largest supermarkets in Canberra, wore masks.

Many stores in the Canberra Center shopping mall closed before noon for security concern, including the outlet of Australian telecommunications company Telstra, which closed at about 11 a.m. local time Sunday morning.

According to the Canberra Times, all Qantas flights at Canberra Airport were cancelled on Sunday due to the smoke, and the Department of Home Affairs told staff to stay at home on Monday.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Australian National University and the University of Canberra both closed their campuses, citing hazardous air concerns.

Caroline Hussey is in her 70s. "I haven't seen the air quality this bad," she said. "It is extraordinarily."

At home she used air conditioners with filter to clean the air and an electric fan for air circulation. "It is better to keep the doors and windows closed," she said.

Facial masks were sold out in many stores.

According to Caroline Williams, a marketing manager with the Pharmacy Network, many people in Canberra even drove to Sydney over the weekend to buy masks.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has accepted an offer of more than 100,000 P2 masks from the Commonwealth as the city continues to face extremely poor air quality conditions.

"These (the masks) will be made available to vulnerable people in our community, such as those sensitive to smoky conditions, and those unable to avoid long outdoor exposure," said ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Williams said to Xinhua, "We have supplies this week so people could come to our three stores to buy masks."

In the Pharmacy on Petrie, people could begin buying masks from 9 a.m. local time Monday. Williams said the masks were sold quickly. "We are still keeping an order level at five masks per person."

Health authorities of the ACT government gave advice to the public during smokey days on its official website.

"The heavy smoke affecting the ACT is expected to continue while fires continue to burn across the border," it said. "During these periods of smoke, all Canberrans are advised to minimise their levels of prolonged or heavy physical activity outdoors. When there is heavy smoke in the area it is best to avoid all physical activity outdoors."

"The government is continuing to monitor demand for masks and is working closely with Canberra retailers," it said.