'Hazardous' air quality may force NSW beaches to close

·News Reporter

Some of New South Wales’ beaches may close over the weekend due to poor air quality as bushfires continue to burn across the state.

Surf Life Saving NSW said in a statement on Friday afternoon the Lower North Coast, North Coast, Far South Coast and the Sydney Basin was forecast for “poor, very poor or hazardous air quality”.

NSW Ambulance has fielded about 2330 calls for help with asthma or breathing difficulties over the past week – 30 per cent more than an average week.

Smoke from nearby bushfires fills the sky over Diamond Beach on the Mid North Coast of NSW.
Smoke from bushfires billows over Diamond Beach on the NSW Mid North Coast. Source: Getty Images

Over the same period, hospitals across the state saw a 25 per cent increase in emergency department presentations for respiratory issues.

There were 1140 presentations, with the biggest spike occurring in the hardest-hit southwestern Sydney area.

Director of lifesaving Joel Wiseman said the health of beachgoers was their “number one priority”.

“If the red and yellow flags aren’t up, it means the beach is closed and lifesavers are not on patrol,” Mr Wiseman said.

People are seen wearing face masks in Sydney.
The poor air quality could lead to the closure of a number of NSW beaches. People here are seen walking in Sydney's CBD. Source: AAP

“We urge members of the public to check signs and ask lifesavers and lifeguards about beach closures and to monitor the Beachsafe app and website for information.”

Beaches could also close if smoke affects visibility too.

Mr Wiseman added road closures on the NSW South Coast might prevent volunteer surf lifesavers reporting for patrol duty.

Some beaches may run with reduced patrols, but others might close.

Surf Life Saving NSW is also encouraging all surf club and patrol captains to check the Air Quality Index before choosing to open beaches on Saturday and Sunday.

In an image taken on a smart phone from a plane window, shows smoke haze blanketing Sydney.
The smoke haze seen over Sydney from a plane window. Source: AAP

Sydney has ranked in the top 10 of cities across the world with the worst air-pollution on several occasions in the last fortnight, according to air quality website AirVisual.

On Thursday, Sydney ranked 18th – higher than cities notorious with air pollution such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Mumbai.

There are also heart risks associated with the smoke haze.

A supplied image from a NASA Worldview Satellite, showing smoke from the current New South Wales bushfires.
A photo from the NASA Worldview Satellite shows smoke across the NSW coast. Source: AAP

– With AAP

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