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Worst Fog Spell In Delhi In 7 Yrs: Met

PTI 22 Jan 2010, 9:18:10 IST

Met office confirmed that the prolonged spell of thick fog this season was the worst in Delhi since 2003. 

The blanket of fog, in fact, is currently stretching from Pakistan to Bangladesh, covering large parts of the northwest plains. It has held the capital in its grip since Tuesday night. Not only has it disrupted air, rail and road traffic, but also made many Delhiites change their plans according to the fog prediction for the next day. School children and their parents specially are having a bad time, as children often have to travel to school in cold and extremely foggy conditions. 

According to the Met office, heavy fog is likely during R-Day celebrations which will mark 60 years of the Indian Republic. 

Thursday saw perhaps the worst pea-souper this season. For almost 15 hours, the airport was covered in dense fog - the longest this season - with visibility as low as 100-175 m for most of the morning. As many as 25 flight were cancelled and about 200 delayed. 

What is going to make matters worse for air travellers is the fact that air space over Delhi will be closed for an hour from 11.15am for R-Day practice on Saturday. With visibility improving at the airport only about 11am these days, the added hour of no operations would mean that the airport would effectively be in use for only half the day and this could spell absolute mayhem. 

Rail traffic continued to take a big hit with train schedules disrupted for the 15th consecutive day. A total of 31 trains, including six Rajdhanis and three Samparkrantis had to be rescheduled and 45 others were cancelled or curtailed. The major stations in the capital witnessed severe overcrowding, forcing security agencies posted at stations to rush in extra personnel. 

While several people changed their travel plans in keeping with the Met's prediction of the fog lifting next week, Delhiites have diligently been returning home before the Cinderella hour, trying their best to avoid their most dense fog hours. ``For the past three days I have made sure that I'm back home directly from office. On Wednesday, some friends had planned a huge dinner at their home in Mayur Vihar but it was finally cancelled since it was impossible for us to drive across the river to their house,'' said Sunita Mulchandani, a banker. 

Visibility at the IGI Airport fell as early as 8pm on Wednesday and low visibility procedures were in place from 8.58pm to 11.55am, a duration of almost 15 hours. During this period, there were only 144 operations of which 132 were under CAT-III conditions. ``The visibility was so low through the LVP period that many flights had to be diverted. Several were rescheduled but that in effect led to massive delays. Even though airlines have been prepared with CAT-III, this time the weather is playing the spoil sport. Hovering over Delhi is also taking considerable time and loss of fuel. Even CAT-III compliant flights have had to be diverted since they were no longer able to hold over Delhi, waiting for a slot to land,'' said airport sources. 

Many flights waited with passengers on board before they were able to take off on Thursday morning. Despite that, the terminals remained crowded. With barely any operations between 2am and 6am, several passengers waited for 4-5 hours at the airport, many being told later that their flights had been cancelled. Rachael, a US citizen, on her first trip to India, left the airport crying after she was unable to leave for Mumbai. ``My flight was scheduled to depart at 6.30pm on Wednesday. It was then rescheduled for 3am and then 9.30am. Eventually it was cancelled at 12.30pm. It is shameful for the airline that it is so mismanaged,'' she said.