Heavy fog hit hard air, rail traffic (Evening Lead)

December 27th, 2010 - 6:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) Heavy winter played havoc with air and rail traffic in the Indian capital Monday, disrupting air and train traffic and leaving thousands stranded and fuming.Cancellations and flight delays in Delhi also affected other airports, causing widespread problems in the region and beyond.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport was under heavy fog since Sunday evening. Authorities resorted to Low Visibility Procedures (LVP), due to which 16 domestic and seven international flights were diverted while 26 were axed.

The visibility in the airport was below 50 metres, as a result of which even state-of-the-art ILS CAT-III B wasn’t effective.

“Flights cannot operate if the visibility is less than 50 metres,” Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told reporters in Mumbai, adding that airlines handled the situation well.

The disruptions here lasted from about 10.30 p.m. Sunday, till 10.36 a.m. Monday when the airport — the country’s busiest — was declared fog free, a Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) official said.

But despite the fog, 257 flights operated under various instrument landing systems that assist in flight operations during poor visibility.

Delhi has been under fog since Saturday, severely affecting air, train and road traffic.

But though the flights resumed by Monday afternoon, stranded passengers were exasperated, complaining about lack of information about airline schedules.

“I tried calling the airport helpline and checked their website but there was no information on any flight being cancelled or delayed,” said a livid Sunil Kakkar, who was travelling to Jaipur.

“My flight was scheduled at 10 a.m. but when I reached Delhi, I was told it was delayed by four hours. Nobody informed me,” he added.

A similar situation prevailed at Delhi’s main railway stations.

“I was supposed to travel to Ajmer by a morning train but it has got delayed due to the fog. I have no option but to wait,” said Ashok Mathur, stuck at the New Delhi railway station.

Officials said many trains to places like Mumbai, Ajmer and Kota on the western line were affected, not only by the fog but due to protests by the Gujjars demanding job quotas who squatted on rail tracks.

The minimum temperature Monday was 6.1 degrees Celsius, a notch below the average for this time of the season. The coldest day of the season in Delhi so far was Dec 22 (5.2).

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