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Elderly, young, pregnant women advised to flee Australian town near burning coal mine

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.