New Delhi: An intense cold wave is sweeping northern and eastern India, resulting in over 40 deaths on Thursday, officials said.
At least 30 people died of the cold in Uttar Pradesh alone in the 24 hours to Thursday evening.
The mercury dropped below four degrees Celsius in many parts of Uttar Pradesh. Even though the fog receded in several parts of the state, the cold continued to bite.
The state government had allocated over Rs.15 crore for blankets for distribution among the poor and homeless. The tendering process, however, is still to begin in several districts.
The Uttar Pradesh government had also announced shelter facilities and bonfires for the homeless and the destitute, but even these moves failed to fructify in time.
Although there are nearly 17 shelter homes, these are largely poorly furnished, and the poor who seek shelter here are forced to lie on the ground, with no blankets.
On Thursday, there were 11 deaths reported from Bihar. The toll to inclement weather in the state this year has so far reached 18.
AK Sen, an official with the met department in Patna, said that chilly northwesterly winds would continue for the next two days.
At Gaya, the minimum temperature dipped to 4.6 degrees Celsius, the lowest in Bihar.
In Punjab, three deaths were reported on Thursday due to cold - two in Amritsar and one in Hoshiarpur. Maximum temperature in the state ranged from four to 10 degrees Celsius.
In the national capital, temperature was four degrees below normal for this time of year, at 16.6 degrees Celsius.
In Tripura, three people died as a mini-truck in which they were traveling overturned in foggy conditions.
In Himachal Pradesh, where snow is celebrated each year and locals remain prepared for winter, no deaths were reported.
In the higher reaches in Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur, Kullu and Shimla districts, there was light snowfall Thursday.
Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti, which experienced 1 cm of snow, was the coldest town in the state with a low of 6.7 degrees Celsius below freezing point.
The weatherman said western disturbances are expected to recede after Dec 29, and Himachal would see drier days.
The weatherman, however, warns that January could bring even harsher cold conditions.