Swimmers at Victoria Pool, Glebe.THE suffocating heat settled on Sydney like a slow-moving treacle.

It was the absence of a promised sea breeze, the weather bureau said, that turned Friday’s stifling 39-degree forecast into a record-breaking 45.8. People did what they could to cope.

Tyran Gulliver, a gyprocker, worked through the heat of the day 20 floors above the ground, on a construction site.

”We’re supposed to knock off at 38 degrees … usually you get the union in but we just kept going,” he said.

Mr Gulliver said he and workmates filled their helmets with water and conserved their energy in a time-honoured Australian way: ”Everyone was bludging.”

Inside Central Station, the escalators gave off the disconcerting smell of burning rubber.

On Eddy Avenue people in cut-off shorts, fluoro vests and trucker hats milled about. There were no prizes for guessing where they were headed.

The Big Day Out festival at the Sydney Showground kicked off at 11am but many stayed away until the promised cold change came in the afternoon.

Many appeared unsteady on their feet. Some collapsed. It was unclear if the heat was to blame.

But the Ambulance Service of NSW said about 150 people were treated for heat exposure or fainting by 3pm.

Joe Sinac, 18, said: ”It’s absolutely brutal,” as he finished a six-pack ahead of his train journey.

In the CBD, police directed traffic when lights on the corner of King and York streets in the CBD flashed orange.

”We have a number of signals out across the greater Sydney metro area,” a Traffic Management Centre spokesman said. ”With this kind of extreme heat, we run into issues, so we advise commuters to exercise caution.”

At Sydney University Pool, more than 1500 people came through the door an hour before the mercury peaked at 2.55 pm.

”It was life affirming,” Chrisen Hall from Surry Hills said of his afternoon dip. In the park outside a man slept under a sheet, corpse-like.

But for 61-year-old Scottish tourists, Sheila Mason and Alison McKenzie, who came expecting a sunburnt country, even once-in-a-lifetime heat was underwhelming: ”This heat is what we expected from Australia at this time of year,” Ms McKenzie said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.