Australian Wildfires Lead to Forced Evacuations As Lingering Smoke Turns New Zealand Skies Yellow (Video)
More than 1,200 miles away, smoke from the Australian wildfires has moved over the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, turning the sky an “eerie” yellow and tinging the air with a burnt smell.
"The air doesn't smell in Auckland, but the sunrise and morning light was eerie," a local woman told The BBC. "There was a strange, golden glow on the sea, the sky was cloudy, and when the sun broke through it was orange."
The smoke appeared over New Zealand on New Year’s Eve weeks after glaciers in New Zealand started turning pink, due to the smoke of the fires. This week, tourist flights up to glaciers were canceled because the sky was a hazy yellow.
Meanwhile, in Australia, New South Wales declared a seven-day state of emergency that will allow officials to remove people from areas under fire threat, News.com.au reported. It will go into effect on Friday, when temperatures are expected to rise.
Thousands of tourists were forced to evacuate the popular resort town of Batemans Bay in the state of New South Wales, according to another local report.
The death toll has risen to at least 17 people and another 17 people are missing.
The Associated Press reported that Australia deployed military ships and aircraft on Wednesday to help combat the fires. A ship reached the coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria on Thursday, where it rescued thousands of people who had been stranded on the beach. The ship brought emergency supplies for people who haven’t been able to access supplies since New Year’s Eve. The ship is large enough to assist in emergency evacuations of up to 1,000 people at a time.
More than 1,400 homes have been destroyed in the fires over the past few months, 175 homes in New South Wales. Stranded residents slept in their cars or in emergency shelters, transformed from surf lodges and gas stations.
Although the fires have been detrimental to New South Wales and surrounding areas, Sydney still proceeded with its New Year's Eve fireworks celebration despite calls to cancel.
"We are going through really tough times now and it brings us together to celebrate a new year with hope,” Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, said at the time.