Wildfires in Australia have hit the east coast of that country. Since September 2019, more than 10 million hectares have been consumed, around 28 people have died and more than one billion animals have died from the flames.
Audience watching a game of tennis during a version of the Australian Open. / Photo: Pixabay
LatinAmerican Post | Laura Viviana Guevara Muñoz
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Leer en español: El Australian Open también es afectado por los incendios
Kangaroo Island, a tourist area located off the east coast of the country, was one of the most affected areas. The place was home to a large number of different species, including the Koalas, a population that was estimated at 50,000 before the fires but now borders 9,000, without adding the population of kangaroos and other species that have died.
Surviving animals are welcomed in shelters intended for recovery. For those who have survived, food comes from the heavens, since firefighters are responsible for carrying boxes with tubers so that survivors can feed.
The consequences for the environment have also been fatal, according to Technology Review, the fires have emitted around 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which will continue to fuel climate change and will increasingly lengthen the season of forest fires summers.
High temperatures, droughts and high winds are the perfect combination for fires to spread faster, and in this case, they merge, as was the case with the “mega fire”, where two fires were found increasing the destruction in 600,000 hectares present in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
The Grand Slam and the fires
In the midst of the devastating fires, one of the most important tournaments in the world of tennis will take place. This is the Australian Open, an event that is scheduled to begin on January 20 and end on February 2, in the city of Melbourne. However, the city, located in the state of Victoria, and one of the most affected by the fires, has been harmed by the constant smoke.
Even so, the event organizers have given no indication of wanting to cancel or postpone the tournament. They even claimed that if conditions became dangerous, all matches would be played on covered courts and courts with retractable roofs, as specified by the New York Times.
In fact, through the official Twitter account , the Australian Open confirmed to the concerned fans that the turner “has 3 covered stadiums and 8 covered courts in Melbourne Park. In the unlikely event of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will be closed on the 3 stadium courts and the game will continue in its environment with air conditioning and air filtration.
In addition, it was specified that if the smoke gets inflated to the stadium courts, the air conditioning system will have the job of filtering it. Also, and given the criticism of "forcing players to play in these conditions", the organization states that it is advised by medical experts who tell them if the conditions are suitable for playing. The professionals are informed by real-time data specific to Melbourne Park.
Hi Alex!— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2020
We understand your concerns. Our medical experts tell us if conditions are suitable for play. They are informed by real time data specific to Melbourne Park.
However, Melbourne's air quality fluctuates every day, with Brooklyn being the most affected suburb with an air quality of around 134, according to the AirVisual portal. With this index it is recommended to reduce outdoor exercise activities, close the windows to prevent dirty air from entering and to combat it using an air purifier.
The first consequences
In the middle of the qualifying matches of the tournament, the games had to be delayed both on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 January. Even so, and after waiting for an hour and after the air quality indexes were still in an unhealthy range, Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic had to withdraw from the match she played and won against the Swiss Stefanie Vogele.
The tennis player suffered a sudden coughing attack, which caused her breathing difficulties, so she left the court in the game she led 6-4, 5-6. Given this, the tennis player said that it was not fair because "it is not healthy for us," she also said that she was surprised with the decision to play in the middle of the conditions, "I thought we would not be playing today, but we really do not have many options" .
Awful scenes in Melbourne.— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) January 14, 2020
Dalila Jakupovic has abandoned her #AusOpen qualifying match after suffering a coughing fit while playing in thick smoke caused by the #AustralianFires. pic.twitter.com/WAJv6TzTjW
Jakupovic, was not the only one who felt the consequences. According to the New York Times, both Eugenie Bouchard complained to medical staff of feeling "spikes in the lungs" and chest pains. At the same time, his opponent, You Xiaodi, struggled with the conditions, and hit only the services under the arm for much of the third set.
To raise awareness about the fires, several important players participated in the # Rally4Relief campaign. In this way, they were divided into two teams, that of Serena Williams (Dominic Thiem, Petra Kvitova, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal), and that of Caroline Wozniacki (Coco Gauff, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Naomi Osaka).
Thus the players were able to raise US$ 5,000, added to the important figures given by the Australian Nick Kyrgios (US$ 1,600) and the donation given by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (US$ 250,000).
¡DE 10! Federer y Nadal participaron con Djokovic, Serena Williams y otras figuras de una exhibición en el Abierto de Australia: se recaudaron casi 5.000.000 de dólares para ayudar a las víctimas de los graves incendios y el suizo y el español donaron 250.000 #Rally4Relief pic.twitter.com/hnlF2IiHNo— Gustavo Goitía (@goitiatenis) January 15, 2020