NZers wake up to the seriousness of the Aussie bushfires

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealanders are waking up to the seriousness of the Australian bush fires after thousands were witness to a blood orange sun today, caused by smoke that travelled across the sea.

The sight was captured on camera from hundreds around the country, including people from rural areas such as Ruatoki, Ruatahuna, Rotorua and Tokomaru Bay.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) meteorologist Seth Carrier says, “These bush fires are creating ash but they're also picking up some of the soil and bringing those across the Tasman. That is why we're getting that colourisation here.

A westerly wind has carried smoke from the fires to New Zealand. The smoke first arrived to the South Island on New Year’s Day and reached the North Island today.

“The smoke was even thicker yesterday across the South Island. There were plenty of images of very thick smoke across parts of Otago. I know I saw a couple of photos in Wanaka.” 

While smoke has caused some health concerns for New Zealanders, the risk is minimal, says Carrier.

“While you may smell a little bit of smoke especially if you're at a higher elevation or at the south island. At the concentrations that we're dealing with here, I don't think that health issues are going to be a large factor.” 

New South Wales police have confirmed a total of seven people have died and two more people are unaccounted for as a result of bushfires impacting the states south.

One fire crew recorded a video showing the moment their truck was overrun by a bushfire.

Another group of 22 New Zealand fire crew members are due to be deployed in a week, a fire spokesperson said in a statement to Te Ao.

“A group of 22 will be leaving New Zealand for New South Wales on 8 January. It will include 20 firefighters, one strike team leader and one liaison officer.”

The spokesperson said the crew members will be in Australia for 11 days, returning on January 20. 

“Fire and Emergency New Zealand has been deploying personnel to assist with the Australian bushfires since late October 2019, the spokesperson said.

“So far we have deployed 157 Firefighters and Incident Management Team personnel both New South Wales and Queensland. Our last deployment to Australia returned mid-late December.”

Areas along the southern coast are under extreme fire danger from Saturday so people are being warned to leave the area.

According to Carrier from NIWA, the fires are not expected to stop anytime soon.