New Delhi : A thick blanket of fog enveloped Delhi and its suburbs on the New Year Day, with visibility dropping to near-zero, delaying trains, disrupting flight operations and slowing down traffic on the city roads.

Domestic and international operations at the city airport remained disrupted for several hours due to low visibility, and even when the skies cleared up, the backlog of stranded flights led to further delays for hundreds of flights, affecting thousands of passengers.

At least 15 trains were cancelled while 56 trains were running late and 20 rescheduled due to fog in several parts of northern India.

Traffic on the national capital’s roads also slowed down due to near-zero visibility early in the morning despite low traffic volume on the first day of the year.

 With mercury at 5.7 degrees Celsius, dropping a notch below the season’s average, on Sunday night, hundreds of passengers braved the morning chill as they remained stranded for hours at the airport and Delhi’s railway stations.

“Delhi woke up to the worst fog of the season. Most of the north-western plains are in its grip. Day temperature will fall significantly,” Mahesh Palawat, Vice President at Skymet Weather, said.

Over 500 flights were delayed and 23 cancelled as dense fog severely hampered visibility at the Indira Gandhi International airport. Nearly all flights arriving into and departing from Delhi were affected. About 453 domestic and 97 international flights were delayed.

All the terminals at the IGI Airport were packed with passengers, who drove on fog-enveloped roads to catch their morning flights.

The visibility, which was 1,500 metres at 3.30 a.m, dropped rapidly to zero at 5.30 am.

 The flight operations at the airport were halted for about five hours. However, the visibility improved as the late morning sun broke through the cloud cover, allowing some flights to take off around after 10 am.

A visibility of at least 125 metres is needed for a flight to take off.   But even as visibility improved, the long backlog due to suspension of operations led to further delays, with an estimated 300-plus flights delayed.

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