Government declares air quality crisis
CANBERRA, Australia (KYMA, KSWT, KECY/NBC News) - Wildfires have given Australia's capital the worst air quality in the world. Now the government is distributing personal breathing masks.
City leaders in Canberra have handed out 100-thousand masks to people considered sensitive to smoke. This includes pregnant women, people with chronic lung and heart conditions, and senior citizens.
"I have a sore throat, I've developed a respiratory disease. I didn't go to work last Thursday and Friday because I was sick from that smoke." said one Canberra resident.
The city has also closed some public facilities to limit people's exposure to smoke.
"It's very bad. When I'm sitting at the desk, I feel it all the time. There's this smell of smoke and fire. And the mask protects me. I can smell the difference." said another resident.
Pharmacies can't keep the masks in stock. They're selling as many as 2,000 masks a day. One pharmacist said he only has small-sized masks in stock.
"It's frightening to think that this is not potentially how it is going to be like the next few days, this is potentially what we are going to be experiencing every summer if we will have fires like these every year." said pharmacist Chris Lawler.
More than 130 fires are still burning in Australia.