The air pollution in India's capital has reached such dangerous levels, at least one airline is temporarily canceling flights there.
"United has temporarily suspended our Newark-Delhi flights due to poor air quality concerns in Delhi and currently has waiver policies in place for customers who are traveling to, from or through Delhi," said Jonathan Guerin, a spokesperson for United in an e-mail exchange with The Sunday Express. "We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency, and are coordinating with respective government agencies."
A flight advisory has been posted on United's website, allowing passengers to waive the "change fee and any difference in fare" for United flights departing "on or before November 18, 2017, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed. "
According to the Washington Post, the fine particulates in the smog are more than 40 times greater than what the World Health Organization-deems a recommended safe level. At least one public official likened the city to a gas chamber.
In a study released by the World Health Organization earlier this year, Delhi ranked 11th on a list of cities with the worst air quality in the world. In recent days, however, the city's situation has reached new lows.
Exacerbating the problem are farmers from nearby regions who are illegally burning their crop fields, with the resulting smoke winding its way into and settling within the capital. Adding to the situation, Delhi, known for its minimal public transportation infrastructure, is faced with worsening pollution from vehicular traffic as well as smoke and exhaust from numerous construction sites throughout the area.
The Chicago Tribune cites a statistic from the Lancet medical journal, which estimates that nearly 2.5 million people in India die each year from pollution.
While Delhi is the only city on United's travel advisory list, air pollution has reached epic levels throughout the region. In Lahore, Pakistan, some 15,000 people were hospitalized over the past two weeks as a result of worsening air pollution.
A tweet by BBC Weather says that inhaled smog particles can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases.
A Pakistani government official estimated that more than 250 traffic accidents were caused by limited visibility from the smog, killing 14 people and injuring more than 400.
Flights in, out and around Pakistan have also been delayed, canceled or diverted.
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Air pollution is a growing concern with major travel destinations around the world.
In January, smog in London also caused flight delays and cancellations and London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the situation a "health crisis." Smog also often reaches "hazardous" levels in Beijing-considered to be one of worst cities for air pollution in the world-including a particularly notable incident last December. To help combat air pollution in France, city officials announced the closure of the Champs Elysees to cars one Sunday per month.
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