Samoan students give account of Sydney's bushfires

Air pollution from bushfires close to Australia’s largest city is beginning to affect Samoan students attending Sydney universities.

Some 80 or more bush fires are burning throughout New South Wales and slowly making its way into Queensland, engulfing Sydney in thick smoke and increasing the threat of fires.

Two Samoan students, who are currently resident in Sydney, told the Samoa Observer that the quality of air in the Australian city “is just getting worse” and beginning to impact their daily routine.

One of the students, Alamita Pereira, who studies at the University of Sydney, said the air quality and visibility has become worse in recent days.

“While it’s not as bad as the areas closest to the fires, we can still see it’s effects from this part of the city.”

Anna Tevaga, another Samoan studying at the University of Sydney, said she noticed the increase in smog, and most days she catches the train to go to the university as the air outside is unhealthy. 

“It’s gotten really bad here, walking around gives us trouble breathing,” she said.

With Christmas around the corner, some universities in the Australian city will close for the festive season, which means the students having the option of returning home for the holidays.

But it can become a tough choice for Sydney-based Samoan students to make, as they ponder escaping the city’s bushfire dangers by returning to Samoa, which is in the middle of a measles epidemic.

Ms Tevago is one of those students who has one eye on Australia’s bushfire disaster and another on Samoa’s measles epidemic.

“There are alot of us studying here worrying about the fires, even though we go to different universities. We’ve all been following the news. I am worried for Samoa and hope that the measles clears up fast.”

Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, Sara Moriarty, in response to queries from Samoa Observer said both her country and Samoa are facing major challenges and Australia appreciates the concerns of Samoans for those affected by the bushfires.

“Extreme weather events such as droughts, bushfires and cyclones are a feature of Australia’s climate. Our thoughts are with our families and communities in Australia who are badly affected by the latest devastating fires, and the Australian Government is working hard to support them,” she said.

There are about a dozen Australian volunteers in Samoa at the moment offering their services to fight the measles epidemic.

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