A dust storm covered the New South Wales and southern Queensland on Wednesday and blanketed the states in an eerie red haze and pushed air pollution levels to 1500 times their normal levels - the highest in the history of the states.
According to reports, the dust cloud covered almost the whole of New South Wales, and the states were hit with strong winds and low visibility. The dust also caused cancellation of flights from Sydney Airport, traffic jam, the closure of the M5 tunnel and the suspension of Sydney ferries.
Dr John Leys, principal research scientist at the NSW Department of Climate Change and Water, said that the initial estimates revealed that the dust plume stretched 600km along the NSW coast from Sydney to the Queensland border and Brisbane, dumping up to 75,000 tonnes of dust per hour into the Tasman Sea, News.com.au reports.
Health authorities also advised people with respiratory illnesses to stay indoors and to avoid exercise until the dust cleared.
"The measurements taken in Sydney today showed the highest level of particle concentration on record. A normal day would see around 10 micrograms of particles per cubic metre of air and a bushfire might generate 500 micrograms," said Chris Eiser, Manager of Atmospheric Science with the department.
Weather officials have further warned of another severe storm to sweep across the southern and eastern parts of the country tomorrow and Friday with the potential to create another dust storm.