25,000 schools close as smog envelopes India, Pakistan
Punjab's government said it was closing all 25,000 schools in the state for the rest of the week due to the acrid air blanketing north India and parts of neighbouring Pakistan, AFP reported.
The decision came a day after Delhi authorities said they were closing all 6,000 schools in the capital until Sunday.
Low winds and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab and neighbouring areas have caused the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air to spike to many times the levels considered safe.
Figures on the U.S. embassy website showed levels of PM2.5—the smallest particulates that cause most damage to health—spiked at over 1,000 on Wednesday afternoon in Delhi, though by Thursday they had fallen to 590.
The World Health Organization's guidelines say 25 is the maximum anyone can safely be exposed to over a 24-hour period.
A government advisory urged anyone with breathing difficulties to remain indoors and said everyone should avoid strenuous activity.
Media reports said the thick smog had also led to a series of road accidents in north India. ■