Raw: Coal Mine Fire Shrouds Town in Smoke, Ash


Residents in the town of Morwell, Australia are being asked to evacuate as a fire at a nearby coal mine spews ash and smoke throughout the town. (Feb. 28)



Morwell, Australia - February 25, 2014


1. Wide of smoke rising from burning mine, helicopters dropping water from above

2. Mid of fire burning, thick smoke rising

3. Mid zoom out to wide of helicopter dumping water on fire

4. Mid of fire burning, thick smoke rising


Morwell, Australia - February 28, 2014

5. Wide of car driving down street

6. Wide pan from street to mine

7. Mid long shot of smoke rising from mine

12. Various of helicopter dumping water

15. Mid pan of chairs covered in ash

16. Mid of car covered in ash


The elderly, young children and pregnant women were advised on Friday to evacuate an Australian town that has been shrouded by smoke and ash from a burning coal mine for almost three weeks.

Victoria state Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester said vulnerable residents were advised to leave the town of Morwell as a precaution because the fire in the nearby Hazelwood Coal Mine is expected to spew smoke for at least 10 more days.

"The longer the vulnerable people spend in the fine particles from the smoke, that's a continuing risk to them," she said at a news conference on Friday.

Her words were echoed by Victoria state Premier, Denis Napthine.

"I urge people to follow the advice of the chief medical officer, this is sound medical advice, which people should follow," he said.

Residents of Morwell, a town of 14-thousand in the Latrobe Valley east of Melbourne, have complained of chest ailments and headaches caused by the acrid smoke.

"There's animals being treated with Ventolin (respiratory medicine)," complained one local resident to Australian broadcaster ABC.

"Look around at the people in the street wearing masks every day, look at what's actually going on."

However, Lester said health workers had not yet seen serious health effects from the smoke, and that there had not been a sharp increase in ambulance calls or hospital admissions.

In addition to people aged over 65 years, under school-age children and pregnant women, Lester advised people with pre-existing heart and lung problems to temporarily leave town.

Police suspect an arsonist started the blaze in the open-cut coal mine with three brush fires lit on February 9.

No one has been arrested. The fire has since burned deep into the coal seam.

Local fire services said it could take another 10 days to bring the blaze under control so that it wouldn't send significant smoke or ash over Morwell.

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