The elderly, young children and pregnant women are being advised 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 Friday that vulnerable residents are 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.

Residents of Morwell, a town of 14,000 in the Latrobe Valley east of Melbourne, have complained of chest ailments and headaches caused by the acrid smoke.

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