SYNDEY – Massive infernos outside Sydney continued to rampage late on Dec. 10, nearly encircling the city and covering it with so much smoke it was hard to see even the famed Sydney Opera House and threatening the Greek Orthdox Monastery near Mangrove Mountain, north of the city.
Five days earlier, the monastery was reported in grave danger, said the Greek City Times, a site based in Sydney, home to a large population of those with Greek heritage and Greeks who fled their country during a long economic crisis.
The Holy Monastery of the Mother of God ‘Pantanassa is a coenobitic monastery for men located on the Central Coast of N.S.W. Australia. The monastery was established in 1976 with the blessing of the late Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church (1975-2019).
Perched on Mangrove Mountain, about 90 minutes north of Sydney, the Pantanassa Monastery features a contemporary rendition of ancient Byzantine architecture, combining current day design practices with ancient materials to create Australia’s first Greek Orthodox monastery produced in this ancient style, the site said.
Even the renowned ferries that operate from Circular Quay in perhaps the best harbor in the world, which includes the Opera House, the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Royal Botanic Garden that bring millions of visitors annually.
Hot dry conditions have brought an early start to the fire season during the beginning of summer Down Under with December like June in the Northern Hemisphere. Some offices in the downtown business district were evacuated and local health officials advised people to stay indoors as much as possible and those with heart and lung problems were told to avoid all outdoor activity.
“The smoke here in Sydney is extremely bad today, it is some of the worst air quality we’ve seen,” Richard Broome of New South Wales Health told reporters. “We are just urging people once again to take these (conditions) seriously,” Broome said.
Ambulances were answering dozens of respiratory-related calls a day, said the head of NSW Ambulance, Brent Armitage and Sydney Trains warned that fire alarms at train stations might be set off by the thick smoke drifting into the city from fires ringing the city..
Given the dire air quality, workers should not be forced to toil on outdoor job sites while the haze persists, said Unions NSW’s Assistant Secretary, Thomas Costa. “Toxicity is very, very high,” Costa said.
Winds from the north were pushing the smoke into the city, overpowering coastal breezes. Forecasts showed the wind would likely clear the air somewhat but also will fan the brush fires.
Australia’s fire season normally peaks during the summer in the Southern Hemisphere. It started early this year after an unusually dry and warm winter. Last month, authorities had reported more than 50 wildfires burning mainly in northern New South Wales.