India

India: Cold snap bites harder, toll 300

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NEW DELHI: The snap cold that has so far claimed around 300 lives continued to sweep swathes of north India, affecting normal life and forcing closure of schools in Bihar and Rajasthan.

Himalayan states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh were the worst hit with icy cold winds and sub-zero temperatures confining people to the warmth of their homes. Ladakh continued to shiver, with night temperature dipping to -22=B0C in Leh, against -20=B0C on Monday. Kargil was no different with the mercury plummeting to -16.4.

There was some respite elsewhere in the state with the improvement in night temperature in the Valley with Srinagar recording minus 3.6 degree Celsius, against -4.2 on Monday. South Kashmir scenic resort of Pahalgam was the coldest place in the region at -5.5, against -6.6 on Monday. Cold wave worsened in Jammu with mercury dipping to just two degrees above the freezing point.

Higher reaches in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh continued to reel under sub-zero climate with a slight rise in the night temperatures. Keylong in the state's Lahaul and Spiti district was the coldest place with minimum temperature of -11.7. The situation was no different in the plains of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with mercury dropping by up to two notches below normal. Amritsar was the coldest place in the region with a low of 2.2, two notches below normal.

Ludhiana and Patiala recorded a low of 6.2 and 5.8, while Chandigarh shivered at 5.8. The Met department forecasted possibility of rains and thundershowers at several places in Punjab and Haryana during next few days.

The Bihar government ordered closure schools till January 16, where biting cold has claimed 21 lives so far. Gaya was the coldest place in the state with a minimum temperature five degrees above the freezing point.

Two fresh deaths at Muzaffarnagar in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh took the number of cold-related deaths in the state to 264.