More deaths as intense cold grips northern India

Dense fog blanketed northern India, disrupting rail and air traffic, as the death toll from a severe cold wave in India rose to 144 on Tuesday, officials said.

In the worst-hit state of Uttar Pradesh, at least 12 people died overnight as hundreds of homeless people huddled around public bonfires lit by civic authorities.

”Despite our efforts, 12 more people died overnight in the state, taking the state toll from the cold to 121,” said Surendra Srivastava, a police spokesperson in Lucknow, the state capital.

”All the dead were homeless people,” he said.

The state welfare department distributed blankets among the poor and homeless on Tuesday.

In the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, at least 15 people have died because of the cold since November, while another eight deaths have been reported over the past two weeks from the state of Jammu-Kashmir, bringing India’s death toll to 144.

The cold has also left wide swathes of northern India shrouded by dense fog, which again disrupted road, rail and air traffic on Tuesday.

”Trains are running seven to 20 hours late,” said Gitanjali Kame, a railway spokesperson in Lucknow.

At the city’s airport, no flights had taken off or landed on Tuesday due to dense fog that had reduced visibility to tens of metres, spokesperson Diwakar Tripathi said.

Schools have been ordered closed across northern India till the cold wave lifts.

The meteorology department said the cold spell, worsened by chilly north-westerly winds, will last till the end of the week. — Sapa-AP

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