Sydney, Jan 14 (IANS) Thick bushfire smoke delayed the first day of qualifiers at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Tuesday, with the toxic smog deemed too hazardous for athletes to play in.

“Practice was temporarily suspended this morning due to poor air quality,” Tennis Australia said in a statement, reports Xinhua news agency. “As always the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans is our priority.”

While qualifying matches got underway at 11 a.m. (local time), Tennis Australia added that conditions onsite were constantly monitored and that any further decisions would be made using onsite data in close consultation with medical specialists, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from Environmental Protection Agency Victoria.

Moving in from fires still burning in the East Gippsland region, Bureau of Meteorology’s duty forecaster Dean Stewart told a daily that the poor air quality is likely to stick around for at least 24-hours — which could throw the entire Australian Open tournament into chaos.

“More smoke from the fires has come across overnight, and winds at the moment are very light, giving us smoke around even thicker than yesterday,” he said.

A number of public swimming pools were also shut for the day with state authorities continuing to warn people to stay inside where ever possible.




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