The stench of smoke is heavy in Victoria, with health authorities warning today’s choking haze could be “life-threatening” and put vulnerable people at risk.
The stench of smoke is heavy in Victoria, with health authorities warning today’s choking haze could be “life-threatening” and put vulnerable people at risk.

Smoke haze could be ‘life threatening’ for some

A thick smoky haze has blanketed Melbourne, and is expected to remain until at least Wednesday.

It comes as authorities this afternoon confirmed that all the people missing in the bushfires have since been accounted for.

The Environment Protection Authority has recorded "very poor" air quality in the city and surrounds, with the haze a combination of fires in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

Very poor air quality could see symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.

Air quality in Geelong is also forecast to be very poor.

Those with pre-existing heart or lung conditions or asthma and those aged under 14, over 60 or pregnant women are most at risk by the smoke.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton said these conditions can be life-threatening to vulnerable groups.

Smoke haze covers the top of Melbourne's skyscrapers.
Smoke haze covers the top of Melbourne's skyscrapers.

 

Smoke haze and light rain hang over the Melbourne CBD. Picture: David Crosling
Smoke haze and light rain hang over the Melbourne CBD. Picture: David Crosling

He urged people to stay indoors, avoid exercise and have a medical plan in place if symptoms flare.

"We know this is a threat to life for some people so those (groups) in particular really need to minimise their exposure to smoke," he said.

Dr Sutton added people who have never experienced asthma symptoms could also suffer and should see their GP if they feel unwell.

Symptoms triggered by smoke include coughing, along with nose, throat and eye irritations.

People could also experience a shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing.

Dr Sutton warned face masks are "not a cure-all" solution to smoke and that the best way to avoid it is to stay indoors.

However P2 and n95 masks that filter particles are the most effective for those who are required to be outside, he said.

A man covers his face with a mask as air quality levels deteriorate. Picture: David Crosling
A man covers his face with a mask as air quality levels deteriorate. Picture: David Crosling

"If you are forced to be outside, it might be a time to use a mask," said Dr Sutton.

The top of the Eureka Tower is smothered in smoke.
The top of the Eureka Tower is smothered in smoke.

"But it's important to recognise it provides a false sense of security. A mask is not something you put on so you can go outside when we are telling you to stay indoors.

"It can increase the work required for breathing and make you more fatigued."

Dr Sutton said surgical masks do not filter dangerous smoke particles in the air.

Dandenong, Brighton, Brooklyn and Melton are currently experiencing "very poor" air quality.

Towns closer to the fires such as Rosedale, Traralgon and Yinnar are recording 'hazardous' air quality.

Smoke has also began to penetrate homes and businesses across the state.

Dr Hinwood urged residents to seal their doors now to protect their airspace for the days ahead.

"The smoke will persist for the next few days and you want as much clean air as you can get in the home," she said.

"Some homes are terribly leaky and problematic. This is an opportunity to find friends or family that have a better space."

Dr Hinwood said Victorians needed to brace for difficult conditions going forward.

"I don't think we have ever seen anything like this before," she said.

The tops of skyscrapers are barely visible. Picture: David Crosling
The tops of skyscrapers are barely visible. Picture: David Crosling

"We need to be aware these fires are going to go on, as the commission has been saying, for two months, so we need to plan appropriately as a community."

"People need to take care and think about what they are doing. They should stay indoors and away from smoke."

Scattered showers are expected today, but they will not ease the smoke.

"We have got a hell of a lot of smoke in the landscape because we have so many fires but the little rain we have is not enough to push it down," Dr Hinwood said.

"It will ease in Melbourne tomorrow but we will still have hazy conditions for the next few days."

Dr Hinwood urged pet owners to also consider keeping their animals indoors.

The Bureau of Meteorology says the smoke has been blown across to Melbourne by east to south-easterly winds.

aneeka.simonis@news.com.au


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