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Fog blanks out flights, trains

Flight operations at Calcutta airport were halted for several hours on Thursday morning, as dense fog engulfed the city. Some long-distance trains, too, were delayed.

Airport officials said 30 flights were delayed by more than three hours on an average. The ripple effect was felt throughout the day on all sectors. Several incoming flights had to hover over the airport for 45 minutes to an hour before they could land.

The much-hyped Category II instrumental landing system, installed this year, could not help flights to take off or land as visibility dropped below 350 metres, the minimum requirement for it to be functional. At 5.50am, visibility was as low as 100 metres. The situation started improving after 8.20am.

The first flight to land was Druk Air’s (from Bangkok) at 8.35am and the first to take off was Jet Airways’s (for Port Blair) at 8.45am.

The Met office in Alipore has warned of light to moderate fog in the next 24 hours. “Wind from the Bay in the middle and upper atmosphere is drawing in a lot of moisture. But it’s cold at the ground level, causing condensation of moisture, leading to fog,” said G.C. Debnath, the director of the weather section at the Alipore office.

In the terminals, thousands of passengers were stranded for three to four hours. Inadequate seats and long queues at the security check-in points added to the woes.

IndiGo’s Chennai-Calcutta flight, scheduled to land at 7.30am, was diverted to Guwahati. It finally reached Calcutta at 10.25am. Deccan’s Calcutta-Dimapur flight, scheduled for 8.50am, was cancelled.

Jet Airways’ Port Blair-bound flight rolled out of the parking bay at 8.20am but congestion on the runway left it stranded for nearly half-an-hour before it could take off.

Air India had its first flight (Guwahati-bound) airborne at 9.50am, four hours behind schedule. The airline’s Bangalore flight, scheduled to leave at 7.20am, finally took off at 10.35am. The Delhi-bound flight of Kingfisher was airborne at 9.15pm, more than three hours behind schedule.

Some long-distance trains reached the city several hours late because of fog. Among the affected trains were the Rajdhani Express (Howrah and Sealdah), Darjeeling Mail Kalka Mail, Amritsar Mail, Kamrup Express and the Doon Express.

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