A public health emergency has been declared by doctors in Delhi as air quality in the world’s most polluted capital city plunged to levels likened to smoking at least 50 cigarettes in a single day.
Slow winds and colder temperatures have been blamed for a surge in airborne pollutants beyond what instruments in the city could measure with some recording an Air Quality Index (AQI) maximum of 999.
The Indian Medical Association said the country’s capital was suffering a health emergency and called for an upcoming half-marathon to be cancelled to avoid “disastrous health consequences”.
Residents were warned to avoid leaving their homes as smog enveloped streets and landmarks on Tuesday, sparking road, rail and airport delays and renewed calls for Indian state and federal governments to act.
The Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said the city was a “gas chamber” as his government is to consider a response to the crisis. Primary schools, already asked to keep students indoors, will be shut on Wednesday and possibly longer if the poor conditions persist.