Intense cold, dense fog has northern India in its grip


New Delhi : Thousands of people in northern India were stranded at railway stations and airports Saturday due to delays and cancellations caused by thick fog. The cold weather claimed over 50 lives this week as it tightened its grip on the region.

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“Twenty domestic and eight international flights from here were cancelled and six domestic flights were delayed due to the fog,” said an official at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).

Fog has been affecting flight movements in the capital since Monday and has led to the delay of more than 500 flights and cancellation of around 75 others since then.

The slew of cancellations and delays has left the passengers wiser with many choosing to travel late in the day.

“I have to go to Mumbai for a friend’s marriage. Seeing the weather conditions of the past few days I booked a ticket for an afternoon flight hoping that the fog situation would improve,” said Meenakshi Sharma, a PR consultant.

The situation was no better at the city’s railway stations, where passengers and their relatives had to wait for hours as over 70 trains were also delayed by an average of more than three hours.

“My daughter was coming by the Goa Express. The train was scheduled to reach Delhi 6.25 a.m. but it was six hours late,” said Niti Arora.

According to meteorological officials, the fog will persist for a few days. The minimum temperature recorded Saturday was 5.4 degrees Celsius, while the maximum was 20.2.

The situation in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh was similar, with train and flight schedules being disrupted and accidents claiming lives due to the fog.

Parveen Kumar, 42, a resident of Chandigarh, rammed his motorcycle into an electricity pole due to dense fog late Friday evening. He died on way to the hospital.

In another incident, Kamaljit Singh, 22, failed to see the divider and his tractor rammed against it and overturned. Kamaljit, a resident of Mohali in Punjab, died on the spot.

In the last week, over 50 people have died due to the bitter cold in Uttar Pradesh.

“Over 50 deaths due to the cold were recorded in hospitals across the state in the past week. Most of the victims were pavement dwellers,” a government spokesman told IANS in Lucknow.

The Uttar Pradesh home department has now issued orders for bonfires to be lit along roads for pavement dwellers. It has also advised various district administrations to order the closure of educational institutions due to the extreme cold. Similarly, the administration in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi has ordered schools to remain closed till Jan 8.

Many tourists visiting Agra for a winter vacation found it difficult to bear the bitter cold as the mercury plummetted to 3.6 degrees Friday.

“We came all the way to see the Taj Mahal. We had no idea that it would be so cold,” Raghvan from Madurai in Tamil Nadu said as he shivered in his white shirt and veshti (cotton garment worn by men in place of trousers).

Surprisingly, visitors to hill stations have been basking in mellow sunshine. Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, has seen no snow or chilly winds this season.

“Shimla and nearby areas like Chail, Kufri, Naldhera and Kasauli have been witnessing bright sunny days for the past two weeks,” Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological department in Shimla, told IANS.

“Despite being located at a height of 7,000 feet above sea level, Shimla and its surrounding areas have been recording minimum temperature around five degrees Celsius during the past one week,” Singh said. Though that low dipped to 4.1 degrees Friday, it stayed sunny and windless.