Eerie glow in sky confuses Australian town and outs cannabis farm

By Tiffanie Turnbull

BBC News, Sydney

Pink sky over MilduraImage source, Nikea Champion

Image caption,

Locals in the town of Mildura were confused by a pink glow in the sky

When a pink glow lit up the evening sky above an Australian town on Wednesday, local woman Tammy Szumowski wondered if the apocalypse had arrived.

“I was just being a cool, calm mum, telling the kids: ‘There’s nothing to worry about,'” she told the BBC.

“But in my head I’m like, what the hell is that?”

It turned out to be light emanating from a cannabis farm just outside the town of Mildura, in northern Victoria.

But like other stunned locals, Ms Szumowski’s mind initially went elsewhere – was it an alien invasion? An asteroid?

“Mum’s on the phone and Dad’s in the background going: ‘I better hurry up and eat my tea because the world’s ending’.”

“And Mum’s like: ‘What’s the point of eating your tea if the world’s ending.'”

Another local, Nikea Champion, first thought it was a really bright red Moon – before realising the light was originating from the ground.

“All these end of the world scenarios were going through my head,” she told the BBC.

“I was having a big Stranger Things moment – I’m like, Vecna? Is that you?” she said, referencing a villain from the TV series.

Both women – to their amusement – were wildly off base.

Secret farm exposed

Medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016, but recreational use of the drug is banned.

Few growing facilities exist and their locations are top secret for security reasons – but the cat’s out of the bag for this farm.

Reddish-tinged lights are used to help the crop grow. Usually, blackout blinds come down at dusk.

On Wednesday they didn’t work, a spokesman for manufacturer Cann Group revealed.

And because it was an cloudy night, the lights created a “sunset on steroids” that could be spotted almost an hour from the facility.

“I cracked up laughing… it could have been something so much cooler, but was just medical marijuana grow lights basically,” Ms Champion said.

Ms Szumowski said they also “had a good laugh”.

Despite the initial panic, she was struck by the beauty of the light show: “I reckon it was great – they should do it more often.”

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