Delhi residents spend Christmas indoors as smog emergency reaches fourth day

A residential building is shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India, December 25, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 25 December 2018
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Delhi residents spend Christmas indoors as smog emergency reaches fourth day

  • Senior officials predicted the severe pollution would last another three days due to unusually stagnant and cold air
  • Some domestic and international flights were delayed for up to two hours due to poor visibility

NEW DELHI: Many Delhi residents were forced to spend Christmas indoors this year as air quality remained at “severe to emergency” levels for a fourth day, in the Indian capital’s worst smog crisis this year.
Senior officials predicted the severe pollution would last another three days due to unusually stagnant and cold air. They issued a three-day emergency response on Monday that included closing area factories and banning construction works.
“We are preferring to stay at home due to pollution despite Christmas celebrations and a public holiday,” said Amit Azad, a financial consultant. He bought an air purifier this week after developing a cough because of the smog.
A Delhi government official blamed the pollution for lighter-than-usual traffic on already holiday-thinned streets, while a Delhi airport official said some domestic and international flights were delayed for up to two hours due to poor visibility.
Delhi’s air quality index, which measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter, averaged 420 on Tuesday morning, slightly better than 449-450 the previous two days — the worst this year — data from the government’s Central Pollution Control Board showed. A reading above 100 is considered unhealthy.
Delhi is ranked among the world’s worst cities in air quality, after years of breakneck growth in auto sales and coal-fired power generation.
Environmentalists say the federal and city governments, while focusing on temporary responses, are side-stepping more effective, long-term measures that would hit at the sources of pollution and promote cleaner fuels.
“There is a lack of political will to take required measures on a sustained basis to contain pollution levels,” said Sunil Dahiya, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India. He called for higher car parking fees and reduced dependence on coal-fired power plants.
Dahiya also said the government should immediately close down schools and urge people to curtail outdoor activities given the serious health effects of the current pollution levels.


Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

Updated 5 min 45 sec ago
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Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.
Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”