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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 12:10 GMT
Nearly 150 die in India cold wave
Men warming their hands at a roadside bonfire
Cold comfort: Men in Delhi ward off the chill around a bonfire
The death toll from a cold wave sweeping through northern India is approaching 150, authorities say.

Twenty people reportedly died in near-freezing temperatures in Uttar Pradesh state on Monday - officials say it was the season's coldest night.

Most deaths so far have taken place among the homeless and elderly, and local authorities have been asked to arrange shelter for the vulnerable.

Scores die in India every year, being ill-equipped to deal with extreme cold.

In many cities, a thick fog has accompanied the plummeting temperatures, disrupting air and rail transport.

Weather officials attribute the current cold snap to disturbances over the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir state.

Five deaths from the cold were also reported in Nepal - the victims, all of them elderly, died on Monday night.

Sheltering in schools

The reported death toll in Uttar Pradesh has risen to 75 in one week, following the casualties on Monday night.

Other severely hit Indian states include Rajasthan and Bihar, where the death toll from the recent cold weather is said to be 20 and 50 respectively.

Bihar's Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, Mritunjay Singh, said the authorities had been asked to provide shelters and bonfires for the homeless.

Many of the homeless are being accommodated in school buildings and some local officials say students' winter vacation may be extended if the extreme weather persists.

Extreme heat kills hundreds of people in India every year, but winter deaths from cold weather have also been high recently.

Last winter, nearly 100 people died in Uttar Pradesh alone during a cold wave.




SEE ALSO:
India heat deaths exceed 1,000
03 Jun 03  |  South Asia
India's heat wave tragedy
17 May 02  |  South Asia
Cold grips South Asia
13 Jan 03  |  South Asia


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