It’s a national emergency. New Delhi’s air pollution has reached levels so toxic that United Airlines is canceling flights from Newark to Delhi, India until it improves.
Arvind Kumar, a lung surgeon at a local hospital, told NDTV Media. “As a doctor, I have no problem saying that the situation today is a public health emergency. If you want to protect people, we should be ordering the evacuation of Delhi. Closing down all schools. Closing down all offices.”
Flights between Newark, New Jersey, and New Delhi are canceled until at least Monday after evaluations found the air quality to be around 75 times the World Health Organization’s safety levels. One Delhi official said that the pollution is so bad that the city has turned into a “gas chamber.”
United said the city’s air conditions were severe enough to be considered a natural disaster, and to be avoided like a hurricane or wildfire would be.
Passengers will be given vouchers to switch flights, or given assistance in flying with a different airline.
Delhi’s air quality has worsened drastically in recent weeks in part due to dropping temperatures. Pollutants get trapped near the ground, condensing the particles into a thick smog rather than allowing them to disperse into the atmosphere. Farms in nearby towns have also contributed to the pollution problem, as farmers illegally burn crop residue to clear fields, reports NDTV.