Gale-force winds uprooted giant trees along Delhi’s roads as a surprise dust storm and thundershowers draped the Capital on Saturday, clogging major thoroughfares and forcing harried commuters to wade through knee-deep water in some areas.
A sweaty afternoon turned cloudy in a matter of minutes as people rushed out on to the streets to catch the cool breeze, hoping for an end to a month-long brutal heat spell that has baked the city. Winds of over 80kmph strength didn’t disappoint them as they sent the mercury plunging by 14°C.
The weather office predicted the next two days will see a further drop in temperature but refused to classify the 20-minute squall as a pre-monsoon shower.
“The dust storm and rain in the Capital and nearby areas were caused by a change in the weather pattern because of the excessive summer heat,” said BP Yadav, director of the department of meteorology.
Pollution in the city also nosedived as the showers washed away particulate matter in the air.
With visibility reduced to just 400 metres, airport authorities were forced to divert 16 flights. Two lines of the Delhi Metro reported long delays and snaking passenger queues at stations.
The storm, however, brought no relief for 23-year-old Shahid, who came home only to have strong winds knock over the walls of his makeshift house on him and his brother in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad. Similar incidents were reported from across the city, injuring at least 10 people.
“Suddenly the wind picked up and my elder son went to shut our main door. Within a few minutes, one of our walls cracked and came down crumbling within minutes. Both my sons have injuries on their heads and arms. Shahid also has a minor fracture on his left leg,” said mother Shahina.
An on-duty traffic constable was severely injured in south Delhi’s Hauz Khas after a tree came crashing down on him.
Elsewhere in the city, commuters were stuck in massive jams that hit the arterial Ring Road. "I was stuck near South Extension for almost two hours. The ongoing construction in the area made the traffic movement worse. Just to cross the flyover it took me forty minutes," said Mohinder Soni, a resident of Greater Kailash- II.