9 killed in Delhi dust storm

9 killed in Delhi dust storm

City comes to a halt, Metro network hit, power snaps

9 killed in Delhi dust storm

At least nine people were killed and over 20 injured in a severe dust storm that also disrupted Metro, air and road services in Delhi on Friday evening.

Seven of these deaths were caused due to wall collapse or uprooted trees, with pedestrians and motorists being affected the most. One of the victims was a 17-year-old girl who was beheaded by the flying tin roof of her house. Some of the injured are said to be critical and the death toll could mount.

The storm caused massive congestion across commercial hubs in central Delhi as the Metro network collapsed during peak office hours.

It turned dark around 5 pm and rain, accompanied with strong winds of over 90 km per hour, led to uprooting of trees, broken branches and hoardings in most areas, choking roads and forcing motorists to take cover. Power supply in several areas was snapped during the five-minute dust storm.

The Met department said after recording a maximum temperature of 42.4 degrees Celsius around 2:30 pm, the temperature dipped to 26 degrees around 5 pm, subsequently bringing the metropolis to a virtual halt.

Thousands of commuters were stranded at almost all Metro stations due to failure in power supply from Delhi Transco Limited. In central Delhi areas like Parliament, Central Secretariat, Patel Chowk and Connaught Place, frustrated Metro commuters milled around on roads in search of alternative modes of transport, leaving little space for vehicles.

Public transport buses got overcrowded within minutes of the Metro snag and autorickshaw drivers allegedly started overcharging. “An autorickshaw driver demanded Rs 100 for taking me from Central Secretariat to Punchkuian Road,” said Rohit, a private firm employee.

Many were forced to walk long distances. Sanjay Tuteja, a marketing executive, walked from Rafi Marg to his office on Barakhamba Road in Connaught Place. “With the Metro coming to a halt, people got on to crowded buses, almost hanging out of them. I chose to walk and not risk my life,” he said.

Minutes before the rain started, the dust storm reduced visibility. Three planes were damaged due to strong gusts of wind and storm, forcing the Delhi ATC staff to divert nearly two dozen flights heading towards Delhi. “This is a standard precautionary measure in such weather conditions,” said an official of Delhi International Airport Limited.

Branches that had broken due to the squall lay strewn along roads in areas like Parliament Street, Tughlak Road, Gole Market, Janpath, Barakhamba Road and most arterial roads leading to Connaught Place.

In Mandir Marg area, a hoarding  of the central government employees’ colony crashed due to strong winds. “We were lucky to have escaped unhurt,” said Satish Kumar, an area resident.