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United suspends flights to Delhi as smog chokes city

November 13, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

United Airlines temporarily suspended flights to Delhi on Friday as the city, blanketed by heavy smog, declared a public emergency – though Air India, which connects the Indian city non-stop with Sydney and Melbourne, is flying on.

United cancelled flights between Newark, New Jersey and New Delhi over the weekend as Delhi’s smog crisis saw concentrations of dust rise to 12 times the acceptable level.

Authorities have announced plans to use fire trucks and water cannons to spray water in a bid to help clear the thick, choking haze, a toxic mix of construction dust, vehicle exhausts and smoke from burning crops.

View of Delhi

Residents have complained of coughs, headaches and difficulty breathing. Some are wearing masks against the fumes.

A spokesman for United said the airline was “monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency”.

Quite apart from smog, Delhi’s main airport has been repairing a runway. Earlier this month, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) put out the following advisory: “From 7-9 November, one of the three runways at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport will be closed for surface repair work.  Be prepared for flight delays and/or cancellations. Consult the airport’s website for up-to-date information.”

United last week informed customers with tickets from 9 November 2017 through to today (13 November 2017) that they could re-book a comparable ticket leaving on or before 18 November 2017 at no extra cost. Change fees are waived.

Roadside morning tea, Delhi

One monitor in Delhi showed air pollution levels had hit 969 particles of fine particulate matter per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation’s maximum safe level is 25.

The microscopic particles are particularly hazardous as they are tiny enough to lodge deep in the lungs and penetrate into other organs.

Written by Peter Needham

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