The morning after Diwali celebrations residents of New Delhi woke up to a blanket of toxic smog, breathing in the most polluted air of the year so far.
The city has the worst air quality of all the world’s capitals, but Friday’s reading was the highest of 2021, as people paid the price for defying the fireworks ban.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) surged to 451 out of 500 – the maximum recorded this year.
Morning haze and smog envelops the skyline after Diwali fireworks were let off despite a ban
It indicates “severe” conditions that will affect healthy people and seriously impact those with pre-existing conditions.
The AQI measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter PM2.5 in a cubic metre of air.
In Delhi, the PM2.5 reading on Friday averaged 706 micrograms. The World Health Organisation deems anything above an annual average of five micrograms unsafe.
By comparison, London measured 50 PM2.5 on the AQI on Friday morning.
In India, toxic air kills more than a million people annually.
“The firecracker ban didn’t seem to be successful in Delhi, which led to hazardous pollution levels adding on top of existing perennial sources,” Sunil Dahiya, analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said.
The government imposes a ban on fireworks every year, but these are rarely enforced.
Stubble fires – where farmers in Delhi’s neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana burn fields to prepare for the next crop – also account for 35% of New Delhi’s PM2.5 levels.
Ambrish Mithal, a doctor at the Max HealthCare hospital in New Delhi, vented his frustration on Twitter, and said: “It’s terrible for those with allergies and asthma. We will continue to squabble over reasons and are doomed to suffer.”
An Indian paramilitary soldier walks near India Gate which is shrouded in smog
The government has been accused of not doing enough to curb pollution, instead prioritising economic growth.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that India would achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070 – two decades after the date set by other countries.
In October, intermittent rain and winds led to to a rare drop in pollution, with residents breathing the cleanest air in four years before conditions quickly deteriorated.
Pollution levels often surge in winter months, as lower temperatures and a drop in wind speed traps pollutants in the air for longer.
Original Article: news.sky.com
WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll
The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.
WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.
Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.
The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.
There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.
Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.
Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.
Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.
There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.
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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.
“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”
Original Source: news.sky.com
Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons
The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.
Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.
He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.
The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.
He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.
Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.
He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.
His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.
During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.
Original Article: news.sky.com
Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed
A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.
The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.
The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.
Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.
All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.
At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.
This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.
Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.
The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.
An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province
There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.
Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.
Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.
China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.
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