Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai woke up to an unusual scene this morning. The city was engulfed by a thick layer of smog on Saturday thanks to the festival of Bhogi causing great difficulty for the residents. As per The Times of India, smog reduced visibility to less than 50 metres. Bhogi bonfires lit by residents as part of the Pongal festival is considered to be the reason for the smog.
The smog has hit flight operations badly following a thick cover of smoke due to ‘Bhogi’ festival celebrations, airport officials said. Between 4-8 AM, both the incoming and the outgoing air traffic suffered, they said, adding the services were expected to resume after 9 AM. As many as 18 arriving flights were diverted to Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports. They flew in from various destinations such as Kuwait, Sharjah and Delhi. No flights took off during this period, resulting in delays and scores of passengers waiting at the airport.
According to TOI, the flights that were diverted to Bengaluru are an IndiGo flight from Dubai, an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah, Gulf Air from Bahrain and Air India from Dubai. A British Airways flight from London, an Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi, SpiceJet flights from Pune and Colombo and a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai were diverted to Hyderabad. A Sri Lankan flight from Colombo returned midway. However, around 9:30 am, operations resumed at Chennai Airport and flights were resumed as well.
Bhogi, celebrated ahead of the Tamil harvest festival Pongal tomorrow, involves burning of old articles in a symbolic gesture of bidding adieu to the old and welcoming the new. Meanwhile, motorists plied their vehicles with their headlights on following the smoke cover which descended on the city and its neighbourhoods. As per The News Minute, poor visibility also caused an accident on the Chennai-Tambaram bypass road with two cars crashing into a container lorry at around 8.30am on Saturday. However, no casualties were reported. The government launches regular awareness campaigns ahead of Bhogi, aimed at smoke-free celebrations of the day.
On Saturday morning, the AQI in the Manali area of Chennai is worse than in parts of Delhi, with the level of the lethal particulate matter 2.5 — a key indicator of air pollution — at 599. In the Alandur area of Chennai, the PM 2.5 reading was 303. The permissible level of PM 2.5 is 60 as per national standards.