Flights diverted as New Delhi chokes on heavy pollution

(CNN)Flights to and from New Delhi’s international airport were delayed and diverted on Sunday as pollution reached “unbearable” levels, leaving the Indian capital blanketed with heavy smog.

Visibility was so poor that 37 flights — including at least one international journey — were diverted from the city’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, a senior airport official told CNN.
Pollution indexes saw air quality in the Indian capital climb to “hazardous” levels in the city on Sunday.
Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that pollution was “unbearable” across North India.
New Delhi has been ranked the most polluted city in the world, according to Greenpeace and AirVisual; a report by the two found that seven of the world’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution are in India.
On Sunday, major airlines including Air India and SpiceJet warned of delays and cancellations to flights to and from the international airport.
The senior airport official told CNN that although planes can land during times of poor visibility, not all pilots are trained to do so.


A view of traffic amidst thick smog creating low visibility, at NH-9, Nizamuddin Bridge, near Common wealth Village on October 31, 2019 in New Delhi, India. While Delhi’s air quality plummetted on Friday, its neighbouring states did not fare much better. The smog grew thicker and more polluted on Friday to make Noida the most polluted city in the country with the city’s air quality index (AQI) spiking to 499, recorded by the Central Pollution Control Board, on a scale of 0 to 500. Ghaziabad recorded AQI figure of 496 and Gurgaon 469 on the CPCB’s AQI bulletin.
“During winter months, when it’s foggy early in the morning and at night, and the visibility is poor, we have a roster of pilots who are experts to land in those conditions, so the schedules are made keeping in mind low visibility. That is something we can plan for,” he told CNN.
“But the visibility dropping suddenly due to pollution — that’s not something we plan for when making pilot’s schedules,” he said.
The official said conditions had improved somewhat later in the day, allowing some flights to resume.
Smog has blanketed much of the city in recent days, severely reducing visibility, restricting traffic and limiting all but the most necessary outdoor activities.
On Friday, Kejriwal announced that authorities had begun to distribute 5 million face masks to schoolchildren in the city.
Schools in the area have been ordered to stay closed until Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.

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