MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rampaging wildfires around Australia have put Cricket Australia (CA) and the national Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) on high alert ahead of the country’s remaining two test matches against New Zealand.
Smoke from the fires, which have destroyed more than 800 homes and destroyed more than 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) of bushland across five states, forced the abandonment of a domestic Twenty20 match in Canberra on Saturday.
Six people have been killed in the fires.
The second test of the three match series between Australia and New Zealand starts at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday, with the final match scheduled to start in Sydney on Jan. 3.
“It’s a growing issue that were seeing around the country, certainly Sydney and Canberra mainly,” CA head of operations Peter Roach told reporters at the MCG when asked about the possibility of smoke affecting the matches.
“We’ve got a lot of data from the weather bureaus to say when things get dangerous, but what were seeing is the visibility seems to be the most obvious thing.
“What we’re finding is it comes in quick but also goes quick.”
While visibility was the main issue, smoke inhalation could cause problems for both the crowd and the players, Roach added.
A number of spectators in Canberra required medical attention, although Roach said the players would be most affected.
“What we’re finding, and all the science will back this, is the participants (players) are more prone to that because they’re exercising at the time,” Roach said.
“What we’ve seen in Sydney and Canberra, as we saw the other night was that it does get to a point where it becomes a challenge.”
BOM senior meteorologist Kevin Parkyn added his agency would be monitoring the air quality levels closely, especially with temperatures predicted to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) during the latter stages of the Melbourne test.
“We do expect smoke to be in the state of Victoria but usually it (air quality) will be at a high level,” Parker said.
“The EPA has sensors out measuring the concentration of smoke in the atmosphere.
“They’ll be providing updates in real time on air quality.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Lincoln Feast.