People take part in a climate protest at Sydney's Town Hall, Australia December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Barrett
People take part in a climate protest at Sydney's Town Hall, Australia, Dec. 11, 2019.

About 20,000 protesters marched through the streets of Sydney Wednesday to demand urgent government action on climate change.

The protests were organized a day after the historic Australian city was shrouded by a thick cloud of haze stoked by hundreds of devastating bushfires that have burned for weeks on its outskirts, destroying more than 2 million hectares and more than 700 homes.  Six people have been killed in the disaster.

Residents were forced to wear face masks to protect themselves from the toxic haze, as Sydney's air quality index rose to 11 times above the limit considered to be hazardous.  The haze prompted officials to urge residents with heart and lung problems to stay indoors as much as possible.
 
Firefighters raced from building to building to disable alarms triggered by the thick haze, while some commuter ferries were canceled as visibility in the famous harbor was reduced to nearly zero.

About 100 bushfires are burning in the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, fueled by high temperatures and land left dry by drought and climate change.