The ACT woke to a New Year and the worst air quality in the world, with the national capital shrouded in a pall of thick smoke blown in overnight from the bushfires in NSW.
There was hardly any visibility across the national capital and the air quality was rated Hazardous Extreme, the highest there is, at Canberra’s three measuring stations in Monash, Florey and Civic.
According to the World Air Quality Index rankings, at 9.30 am Canberra rated the worst at 434, followed by Dehli (411) and Kolkata (331).
Over 200 is considered hazardous on the Air Quality Index used by ACT Health. At noon, the index was at 4394 in Monash, 3282 in Florey and 3247 in Civic.
The smoky conditions are the worst the ACT has seen, and with major bushfires still burning in NSW, the situation is unlikely to improve soon.
The Emergency Services Agency also advises that a Total Fire Ban for the whole of the ACT will remain in effect for the rest of the day.
Parks and Conservation will maintain the closure of areas including west of the Murrumbidgee River, Kowen Forest, the Mulligans Flat Sanctuary and Googong Foreshores until midnight on Saturday.
While easterly winds brought cooler conditions this morning the temperature is expected to reach 35 degrees and the forecast Fire Danger Rating (FDR) for today is Very High.
There is no relief from the heat until Monday when 23 C is forecast, but not before temperatures peak at 42 C on Saturday.
Although there are no fires burning in the ACT, the smoke from across the border will continue to impact the Territory, thinning during the day but returning to thicker conditions in the evening with the easterly.
ACT Health upgraded its warning and advises that everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.
This has been heeded by the Canberra Cavalry which has called off its Canberra and Adelaide’s round seven Australian Baseball League series against Adelaide.
The four-game series was slated to start on Thursday.
“The entire Canberra and Southern NSW region has been shocked by the bushfires. This is a difficult decision to make but at the end of the day, the safety of our players, staff, and fans is the most important thing,” says Cavalry Director Dan Amodio.
Baseball Australia chief executive Cam Vale also said the welfare of players, and officials had to be put first.
“We’re facing an unprecedented situation with the serious bushfires sweeping the country and with the information we have available do not see the conditions being suitable for baseball this weekend,” Mr Vale said.
The Cavalry will provide more detail on tickets and other implications on Wednesday morning, and the ABL will outline the impact of the cancelled series on the playoffs and roster points as well.
ACT Health says sensitive groups such as people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions should stay with a friend or relative living outside the affected area.
If this is not possible, ACT Health says residents should remain indoors and keep activity levels as low as possible.
Anyone with a heart or lung condition should take their medication as prescribed by their doctor. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan. Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice from their doctor. Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
Police urged motorists to drive to the conditions and turn their headlights on.
While easterlies are bring smoke to the inland, smoke has also gone across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand where towns such as Dunedin and Oamaru have been affected.