The worst fog shroud over Calcutta this winter caused death and disruption on Friday morning.
A fatal accident on Howrah bridge left three people in a Maruti van — including a five-year-old boy — dead after a collision with a CSTC bus around 6.45 am.
At the other end of town, till over three hours after that, no flight could land at or leave Calcutta airport, causing chaos at ground level.
Fog-induced poor visibility took a toll soon after sunrise on Howrah bridge. A station-bound Maruti van (WB02 G-4167) smashed into a city-bound CSTC bus on route 7A near pillar no 33. Police said a private bus had nudged the van from behind and into the path of the speeding bus.
Alok Niranjan Pandit, 58, and Sahil, 5 , died on the spot. Driver of the van Satish Prajapati, 30, was also killed. Alok’s wife Sabitri, Sahil’s father Ranjit and Sahil’s brother Vishal, 8, are battling for their lives at Medical College and Hospital.
The Pandits, residents of Sukanta Abasan, in Baguiati, were on way to catch the Falaknama Express from Howrah station.
The driver of the CSTC bus was arrested but the driver of the private bus fled.
North Port police station blamed the accident on dense fog and reckless driving.
“The fog is so dense that it can cause a sharp rise in road accidents. We have already issued guidelines for motorists driving in the morning fog ,” said deputy commissioner (traffic) Jawed Shamim.
The danger that struck on the road was averted on the runway, with all flights to and from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport being grounded till 10 am.
Among those hit by fog delay was chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, homeward bound after an official tour of North Bengal. With the Jet Airways flight from Bagdogra delayed by four hours, the chief minister chose to fly back by Air Deccan, delayed by two hours.
A fog blanket covered the runway from 5.20 am and general visibility went down to 100 metres. As a result, 10 domestic flights could not take off. First to leave the airport was a Jet Airways flight to Port Blair at 10.05 am. The Jaipur-Calcutta flight of IndiGo was the first to touch down at 10.11 am.
The Dubai-Calcutta Emirates flight, scheduled to land at 7.40 am, was diverted to Thailand, then landed here at 2.20 pm and left for Dubai. Air-India’s Haj flight from Jeddah to Calcutta was diverted to Nagpur and returned in the afternoon.
Airport officials said the congestion on the runway continued long after the fog cleared. “Twenty flights had to circle over Calcutta waiting for a landing strip,” said an airport official.
The fog impact was felt till late on Friday with Air Sahara’s Calcutta-Delhi flight being cancelled and Indian’s Calcutta-Mumbai flight delayed by nearly three hours.
The rail tracks were less fogged out than the runway, with suburban train services in some sections of Howrah and Sealdah slowed down till 10 am but no major disruption in long-distance train schedules.
The weather office on Friday could not put a fix on fog fadeout (see graphic) and issued a warning to the government, airport, railways and coastal administration for Saturday morning.
G.C. Debnath, director of weather section at the Met Office in Alipore, said: “We can’t predict the fog on Sunday due to changes in the atmosphere.”