Toxic smog cloaks Indian capital amid Diwali festivities

Toxic smog cloaks Indian capital amid Diwali festivities
Indians light fire crackers wearing masks to fight pollution as they celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. India's top court recently ruled that only less polluting firecrackers should be manufactured and sold. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Toxic smog has shrouded the Indian capital as air quality plummeted to hazardous levels after tens of thousands of people set off a multitude of firecrackers to celebrate the major Hindu festival of Diwali.

With schools closed for holidays, many young children stayed indoors to escape the pollution levels that shot up to 681, as reported by the U.S. Embassy Thursday morning. That’s 20 times higher than what’s considered safe by the World Health Organization and could cause serious aggravation of heart or lung diseases.

A government organization blamed it on a combination of toxic fumes from the burning of stubbles in agricultural fields and firecrackers.

Revelers flouted the Supreme Court order that firecrackers could be exploded only between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the festival night on Wednesday.