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Delhi air 14 times more polluted as Diwali smog engulfs India

Thick smog is hanging over Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh on the morning after Diwali, with pollution at an alarming "severe" at 7 am on Monday. Smoke from firecrackers choked the air and also affected visibility.

According to the data from central pollution monitoring agency, concentrations of Particulate Matter or PM 10 (coarser pollutants) was over 1,600 micrograms per cubic metre compared to a safe level of 100 at around 2 am in Delhi's Anand Vihar. PM 2.5, a standard measure of air quality, was as much as 14 times the safe limit.

These particles can lead to respiratory diseases if one suffers from prolonged exposure to unsafe levels. Delhi topped the list as seven areas in the national capital region featured among the 10 most polluted places in the country, followed by while Kanpur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh which also recorded severe pollution.

Every year, pollution in Delhi peaks during Diwali as a hazardous mix of noxious gases and pollutants hang very close to the surface. The Delhi High Court had referred to the capital as "gas chamber" last year.

As Diwali celebrations peaked amid bursting of firecrackers on Sunday, a NASA photo at about 8 pm showed the top half of India hazy with smoke.