India

India: Sun is out, but death toll from cold weather rises to 408

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New Delhi (dpa) - Nearly 408 deaths have been attributed to the cold wave that has engulfed north, east and central India, according to news reports Tuesday.

In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh - the worst affected - the toll has risen to 248, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper.

In New Delhi, several schools that had closed last week following a government directive to give students some respite from the biting cold, reopened on Tuesday.

However, in Uttar Pradesh and the northeastern state of Bihar, schools will remain closed for at least another week.

While the death toll has steadily increased over the past week, official figures are hard to come by. In most of the affected states the administration - which allegedly delayed the distribution of blankets among the poor - claims that not all of the deaths can be attributed to the cold.

Most of the victims are the homeless, who sleep in the open with often nothing more than a thin sheet to protect themselves.

In New Delhi, which has tens of thousands of homeless - 300,000 according to the 1991 Census - the government estimates that 70 homeless people have died of causes related to the cold since the beginning of the year, according to the Times of India newspaper.

A doctor told the newspaper that most of the homeless victims were brought to hospital when it was too late to save them.

While the sun did come out on Tuesday morning, the dense fog through the night and early morning in most of the affected states has ensured that trains are running at least seven hours late, the Aaj Tak channel reported.

The weather is unlikely to change over the next three to four days, although the Meteorological Department claims that the worst is over, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.

dpa ar pw

Copyright (c) 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/14/2003 04:41:32

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