New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) A blinding fog Monday morning hit hard the capital disrupting air, rail and road traffic in a major way and in parts of north India, amid warnings that fog was here to stay for some days.
Thousands of men, women and children were stranded -- and fuming -- for hours both at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the country's busiest airport, and at Delhi's main railway stations.
Many passengers complained of official indifference.
A total of 16 domestic and seven international flights were diverted and 26 axed. The railways said several trains ran late due to poor visibility.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said visibility at the airport dropped to less than 50 meters, affecting even the state-of-the-art ILS CAT-III B landing system.
Yet, 257 flights were operated under various instrument landing systems, an official said.
Patel said in Mumbai that the authorities handled the situation well. 'Flights cannot operate if the visibility is less than 50 metres,' he told reporters.
The disruptions in Delhi affected airports like Chandigarh, Shimla and Srinagar. The minister said airports were doing their best to overcome the crisis.
The scenes were no different at railway stations, particularly the New Delhi and Old Delhi stations, as trains were delayed due to the thick fog in large parts of northern India.
Even as flights began taking off after 10 a.m., after some 12 hours of chaos at the airport, the weatherman warned there would be more fog in the coming days and possible rains too.
The fog descending on Delhi's airport since Sunday evening led to the deployment of Low Visibility Procedures (LVP) Monday morning.
Airline passengers were exasperated.
'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.
The complaints were no different at the 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 job protests by the Gujjars who squatted on rail tracks.
The minimum temperature Monday in Delhi was 6.1 degrees Celsius, a notch below the average for this time of the season. But parts of northern India recorded temperature in the minus.
The weather office has forecast morning fog for Tuesday.
In Punjab and Haryana, the fog was so thick in the morning that road traffic in many places moved at snail's pace. Met officials have said the cold wave conditions would continue.
Cities like Ambala, Bhiwani, Karnal, Hisar, Rohtak, Patiala, Ludhiana and Amritsar were engulfed by dense fog, causing major delays in rail and road traffic.
In a fog-related accident, three members of a family were killed when their car collided with a truck due to poor visibility on the Hisar-Delhi highway Sunday evening.
Haryana's Narnaul city shivered at 1.5 degrees Celsius - five degrees below normal.
Himachal Pradesh had a sunny Monday morning, but the flight disruptions in Delhi affected air traffic in the state.
Flights from Delhi to Shimla, Kullu and Dharmasala -- home to the Dalai Lama -- were considerably delayed.