South Asia smog disrupts travel, sickens thousands in Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan Nov 10 (Reuters) - Two weeks of thick toxic smog has disrupted normal life in parts of Pakistan, with flights canceled, road accidents surging and nearly 15,000 people being hospitalized in and around Lahore, officials said on Friday.

The thick blanket of grey air and pollutants has enveloped the eastern Pakistani city and several other urban areas for nearly two weeks, bringing visibility to zero most of the day.

The Pakistani crisis is part of a wider smog emergency that has hit neighboring India, forcing authorities in New Delhi on Friday to plan to spray water over the city.

Meteorologists say the pollution surge was triggered by vehicle exhaust fumes, dust and illegal burning of crops.

Limited visibility has caused over 250 road accidents, killing 14 people and injuring more than 400, said Jam Sajjad Hussain, a government rescue service official.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, Kamran Malik, said dozens of flights were delayed, canceled or diverted over the last week or so.

And more than 15,000 smog-affected patients were admitted to hospitals with acute respiratory infections, allergies and other pollution-related ailments in the Lahore area, said Faisal Zahoor, director general of health for Punjab province.

Levels of Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) have been touching 500mg per cubic meter in the last several days in parts of Pakistan where the normal upper limit is 150mg, said environment ministry spokesman Naseem-ur-Rehman Shah.

The particles, if inhaled deep into the lungs, can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, severe allergies and respiratory diseases.

Authorities have advised people in the smog hit areas to avoid unnecessary travel, stay indoors as much possible and keep children away from the toxic air. (Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Toby Chopra)

11/10/2017 11:17

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