Lahore: Used cloth prices doubled today as traders moved to cash in on the colder weather after Lahore was lashed by thunder storms and heavy rains. The city and its suburbs received heavy rain yesterday, which was the first rainfall of the year.

Customers who flocked to the city’s landa bazaars to buy warm clothes for the cold spell expected to follow the rains found prices had been hiked sharply by unscrupulous traders. Jackets normally on sale for Rs300 were being sold for Rs500. Angry customers complained they had no option but to pay. “Despite the high prices I have to buy warm clothes for my children,” one customer, Usman, told The Nation.

Their complaints reflect widespread frustration at profiteering by traders at the expense of some of the city’s lower middle classes who rely on second-hand cloth for warm winter clothing. Unlike daily food items, cloth prices are not regulated by government.

Customers said they had been wrong-footed by the recent unseasonally warmer weather in recent weeks and had not been prepared for the cold snap expected to follow last night’s heavy rains and thunder storms.

“The used garments were not in high demand this season since the temperatures didn’t plummet to their usual lows. But yesterday’s rain is being exploited by the shopkeepers who are unfairly charging extra for pretty ordinary clothes… Rs400 to Rs600 for a sweater which was sold earlier for around Rs200,” said Naureen Bibi.

Meanwhile, the shopkeepers claimed that they purchased the stuff available in the market at high prices. “We were charging very nominal margin initially, since we bought the stuff at lower prices,” a shopkeeper told me. “But now we’re buying the clothes at higher prices ourselves.”

Shoppers flooded the landa bazaars after last night’s torrential rains submerged some of the city’s roads under water and sent temperatures plummeting.

The downpour began at 4pm yesterday, continued until 11 pmand plunged the city into traffic chaos.

Motorcyclists were forced to shelter below underpasses on Canal Road for several hours while several roads in the city, including Davis Road, Jail Road, Abbot Road, McLeod Road, Nisbat Road, disappeared below rainwater. Traffic was gridlocked on Ferozpur Road and others where excavation work is under way for the Orange Line Metro.

Hundreds of homes were flooded and power supply was suspended in Baghbanpura, Shadbagh, Badami Bagh, Bhagatpura, Kot Khawaja Saeed, Babu Sabu, Sherakot, Sanda, Mughalpura and Slamatpura areas of the city.

However, the spokesman of Water and Sanitation Agency claimed that surface water was cleared from roads within two hours.

Some of the city’s drenched residents sought refuge in winter comfort food – street food stalls selling crispy pakoras, samosas, and jalebis were reported to be doing a roaring trade.