MELBOURNE: Flights were cancelled at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday (Jan 15) over bad weather, including smoke haze from the Australia bushfires.
A check by CNA on the airport’s website showed several domestic flights cancelled, diverted or delayed, affecting carriers including Qantas Airways, Jetstar Airways, Virgin Australia, Emirates and China Airlines.
An airport spokesperson said more than 50 flights had been cancelled by midday on Wednesday as a result of poor visibility, the Herald Sun newspaper reported.
No international flights were cancelled as as they are given landing preferences by traffic control, the report added.
Australia is battling its worst bushfire season on record, with fires burning since September killing 29 people, destroying more than 2,500 homes and razing bushland across an area the size of Bulgaria.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, bore the brunt of smoke haze from Australia's bushfires on Wednesday, according to satellites operated by US space agency NASA.
Some social media users said the Melbourne Airport had been shut down, but the airport refuted the claim and insisted the airport remained "quite operational".
“Just heard on our plane in Sydney that Melbourne Tullamarine airport has shut down," said Twitter user Benedict Brook. "Must be some thick bushfire smoke down there. Poor person next to me has come all the way from London and already been delayed 7 hours. Nothing you can do though.”
Melbourne Airport wrote in response: “The combination of smoky conditions and some storms are messing with the schedule, but … we’re still here."
Another Twitter user Alecia Groom took a picture from her seat on a plane and wrote: "I'm currently sitting on a grounded @JetstarAirways flight. We have been told Tullamarine is closed due to the storm."
Melbourne Airport sought to reassure her but added “this weather might cause some havoc for the next little while".
Heavy downpours expected later on Wednesday will likely help control some of the 114 blazes burning across New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria states, and potentially even extinguish some, but also bring new dangers.
"Thunderstorms are a bit of a double-edged sword," Kevin Parkyn, a senior meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology, told reporters.
"While they can bring some much-needed rain, (the rain) can also come down in very fast, high quantities," said Parkyn as he detailed a forecast of damaging winds, heavy rainfall and large hailstones for the city of Melbourne and its surrounding.