Surprise fog delays 100 flights, causes airport chaos

March 9th, 2008 - 10:05 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) Hundreds of passengers were stranded at the Delhi Airport as the city was engulfed in out-of-season fog early Sunday. At least 100 flights - both domestic and international - were delayed and an alleged mismanagement by the authorities added to the chaos. Four domestic flights were cancelled, while 14 others including two international flights were diverted to Lucknow and Jaipur airports.

The safety procedures were implemented when the Runway Visibility Range (RVR) dropped to 500 metres at 6.12 a.m. due to heavy fog. It further fell to a mere 250 metres, allowing use of only one runway.

The flight movement improved only three hours later when the RVR improved to 1,600 metres around 10.30 a.m.

But the surprise comeback of fog at Delhi airport opened the proverbial can of worms for the airport authorities, who were caught off guard and were completely unprepared to handle the emergency.

The morning fog also had cascading effects on the evening flights and almost every flight operated was delayed by three-five hours.

“There was unprecedented chaos, which is indicative of mismanagement,” said Gulshan Luthra, a businessman, describing the scene at the airport.

“The home ministry officials must also go through the normal queues to experience the harrowing time passengers face. The mismanagement is telling on us passengers,” Luthra told IANS.

Luthra was to board an Air India flight to Dubai, which was delayed by at least two hours.

At both the international and domestic terminals at the Indira Gandhi International Airport harried passengers waited endlessly in the serpentine queues and in lounges to board their flights.

The flight movement at the domestic airport was temporarily suspended around 8 a.m. when the runway visibility range fell to 200 meters due to the fog. At least 30 domestic flights are running behind schedule.

People had to spend hours first battling a rush at the airport entrance and then at the immigration counters.

The immigration counters posed the biggest bottleneck, as several counters were not operational. Of the 28 immigration counters, only 14 were manned, leading to serpentine queues.

The elderly, handicapped, and passengers with children suffered the most. Many elderly were seen gasping for breath as a result of standing in queues for long hours.

“The chaos is horrible. I have never seen such long queues in the past 30 years. The situation is pathetic and the government must take up this issue seriously,” said Anil Kumar, another passenger.

“Since morning the airport is totally jam packed with passengers and the airport authorities have made no arrangements to handle such situations.”

An immigration official told IANS on condition of anonymity, “What can we do? We have been working at a stretch for the last 13 hours. There is a dire need of more immigration officials at the airport.”

Earlier, this week some passengers fainted due to the claustrophobic condition at the airport.

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