Australian Dust storm hampers fire fighters in Queensland

A MASSIVE dust storm engulfing southern Queensland has led to health concerns, traffic and airport delays, cancelled horse racing and delivered a blow to firefighting efforts.

Water-bombing helicopters were temporarily suspended this afternoon as the skies turned dusty orange.

Drivers were asked to slow down, hundreds of passengers were stranded at Brisbane Airport and horse racing at Eagle Farm was abandoned for jockey safety.

And the ambulance service spent a busy day managing a spike in emergency calls from residents suffering respiratory complaints.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said the good news was a change in weather was expected to lead to clearer conditions tomorrow.

He said it was hoped water-bombing choppers would be back in the air to battle fires caused by the continuation of hot, dry, windy conditions.

More than 300 firefighters were called upon today to fight 21 blazes, but Mr Roberts said it had not been as bad as expected.

As a consequence, the effect of losing the choppers had not been a disastrous hit, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) rural operations director Paul Adcock said.

“It is a concern in that the helicopters are a great way of getting intelligence for the fire and letting us know where fire is in a timely way and also to be able to get a quick response out there,” he said.

“But I think the fact that we have a lot of crews out there, a lot of appliances, a lot of volunteers, a lot of firefighters, we’ve been able to keep things nice and tight.”

He said the blazes giving firefighters most concern were east of Kingaroy, although there had been no direct threat to homes.

Another at Neurum, near Woodford, was contained this afternoon after having burned for a week.

At Cedar Pocket near Gympie, a fire also was contained after igniting yesterday morning and burning down a shed.

Fire bans remain in place across more than half of the state.

Meanwhile, Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) assistant commissioner Leo McNamara said there had been an increase in people dialling 000 especially from people with asthma and other lung conditions.

“There’s certainly been a pronounced increase in asthmatics this morning,” he said.

“It’s across the board from children to elderly folk.

“Fortunately they’ve contacted us early and have been utilising their medications.”

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