New Zealand Sky Turns Orange As 'Apocalyptic' Smoke Spreads From Devastating Australia Bushfires

The devastating bushfires in Australia have sparked alarm in New Zealand Sunday as residents saw the sky above them turn orange as plumes of smoke spread.

In what forecasters from New Zealand's Weather Watch described as an "unprecedented plume of smoke," residents expressed shock while uploading images of the darkening skies above them to social media. Police have urged citizens to stop calling them about the haze.

"From what [we] can tell smoke this thick has never crossed New Zealand from Australia in recorded history," the weather agency stated in an advisory.

Worsening weather in New Zealand was labeled "apocalyptic" and "very unnerving" by residents online, while Reuters cited one local homeowner, named Zimena Dormer-Didovich, as saying that her asthmatic son had been negatively affected by the smoke.

"Climate change knows no borders," scientist Dr. Michelle Dickinson tweeted. "It's 2pm in Auckland yet it feels like the sun is about to set. An eerie, dark orange tinted sky filled with smoke from the Australia bushfires over 2000 k.m. away."

Officials say more than 20 people have died as a result of the bushfires in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and Western Australia. The flames sparked mass evacuations and it has been suggested that 480 million animals have been killed in the NSW fires alone since September.

The New Zealand Met Service released a satellite clip showing a "significant cloud" of smoke blowing into New Zealand from Australia. "This has led to the widespread reports of orange skies today. Southerly winds will clear the worst of the smoke away on Monday," it noted.

It’s 2pm in Auckland yet it feels like the sun is about to set. An eerie, dark orange tinted sky filled with smoke from the #Australia bushfires over 2000km away.
Climate Change Knows No Borders

— Dr Michelle Dickinson (@medickinson) January 5, 2020

Skies over Auckland this afternoon...

— Damian Light (masked and QR scanned) 😷 (@damianlight) January 5, 2020

Taken from my campsite beach in New Zealand today. It is mid afternoon and the height of summer, but the sky turned eerily dark as smoke from the Australian bushfires drifts 4,000km across the Tasman sea...

— Sarah Parmor (@SarahParmor) January 5, 2020

2:30pm outside my home in West Auckland, New Zealand in the middle of summer. Just dark, ash clouds. We are over 2000km away from Australia. No filter. 😞

— Taylah Hodson-Tomokino (@taylahtomokino) January 5, 2020

Took these in Auckland city, New Zealand at 3pm today. The smoke from the #AustralianBushfire shrouding everything in orange.

— Gala Georgette (@GalaGeorgette) January 5, 2020

Skies over Auckland are proper apocalyptic @WeatherWatchNZ

— Morgan Bailey (@MoreMorganB) January 5, 2020

In response to the mounting calls about the deepening haze, NZ law enforcement asked residents not to call the emergency number. Officials said they appreciated the conditions "may be causing concern" but stressed the 111 number was for serious incidents like break-ins or assaults.

The NSW Fire Service said today there are still 148 bush and grass fires burning in the region, 60 of which are not contained. About 2,700 firefighters have been deployed. In recent days, footage has shown the harrowing conditions rescue personnel have been tasked with battling.

Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison, who has faced a barrage of criticism for his handling of the fire crisis, on Saturday pledged additional support for those affected by the situation. He said the government enacted a compulsory call-out of Australian Defence Force Reserve Brigades.

As reported by the Associated Press, the PM was heckled last week after visiting a region of New South Wales that was home to a firefighter killed while combating the fires and was previously blasted for being on a vacation in Hawaii as the situation in his own country worsened.

"Blame doesn't help anybody at this time and over-analysis of these things is not a productive exercise," he said Saturday, hitting back against such criticism.

"There is no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change globally and its effect on global weather patterns and that includes how it impacts in Australia," Morrison added. "I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government has always made this connection and that has never been in dispute."

New Zealand
People at Totara Park in Manukau photograph the tobacco coloured skies on January 05, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. The smoke has travelled from Australia, where hundreds of fires continue to burn across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Phil Walter/Getty