Northern India shivers, travel plans badly hit

New Delhi: In the unrelenting grip of severe cold, north India Monday continued to shiver due to icy winds while dense fog played spoilsport to travel plans as many trains and flights were delayed or cancelled. It was the coldest Dec 22 in the national capital in the past five years.

Delhiites Monday woke up to dense fog that reduced visibility to 50 metres. The minimum temperature was recorded at 4.2 degrees Celsius, the Met Office said.

Due to poor visibility, 50 trains to the capital were delayed while 12 were rescheduled and one was cancelled, a Northern Railway official said.

The fog also hit flight schedules -- 16 departures were delayed, but no flights were diverted or cancelled, said an official at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung made an emotional appeal to Delhiites to help the city's nearly 60,000 homeless by giving them clothes. He said displaying "yeoman kindness" was a rare opportunity in life.

The Delhi government has set up 221 night shelters for homeless people with basic facilities such as clean drinking water, toilets, blankets, and bedding etc.

Himachal Pradesh continued to be in the grip of a cold wave, with higher reaches of the state experiencing more snow.

The minimum temperature in Shimla was 6.2 degrees Celsius, while it was 5.2 degrees Celsius in Dharamsala.

Keylong experienced mild snow and was the coldest in the state at minus 4.3 degrees Celsius.

Manali saw a low of zero degree Celsius, and Kalpa recorded a minimum of minus 0.6 degree Celsius.

The Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), 51 km from Manali, and the Dhauladhars, overlooking Dharamsala and Palampur towns, also experienced snowfall.

Uttar Pradesh continued to shiver as the cold wave intensified, a development that led to the closure of all schools up to Class 12 in state capital Lucknow.

Icy winds from neighbouring Uttarakhand worsened the situation, and the fog virtually paralysed the transport system.

Lucknow saw a minimum temperature of 4.9 degrees Celsius, while Bijnor was the coldest in the state at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In a tragic incident, four siblings suffocated to death Sunday when they lit up a clay oven inside a room to obtain some respite from the cold in Bijnor.

In Rajasthan, intense cold continued to affect normal life, as thick fog hit train and flight services here too.

Mount Abu, the only hill station in the state, was the coldest with a minimum of two degrees Celsius.

Pilani shivered at 3.8 degrees Celsius, while Churu and Bikaner recorded minimum temperatures of 4.2 and 4.5 degrees Celsius, respectively.

Jaipur saw a low of 6.4 degrees Celsius. Morning flights were not operated due to fog at Jaipur airport and regular operations started only after noon.

In Bihar, intense cold continued to affect normal life. Dense fog and poor visibility delayed many flights at Patna airport, and also led to late running of many trains.

Regional weather official R.K. Mohapatra said in Patna that fog and the cold wave will intensify in the last week of December.

Demand for firewood, cow-dung cakes, room heaters and blowers has shot up.

The minimum temperature in Patna was 9 degrees Celsius, while it was 8 degrees Celsius in Gaya.

Cold weather and thick fog also affected life in most parts of Punjab and Haryana.

There was some relief during the day as the region saw mild sunshine for a couple of hours.

Karnal in Haryana was the coldest place in the state, with a minimum temperature of 3.6 degrees Celsius.

Hisar saw a low of 5.6 degrees and Narnaul 4 degrees, while Ambala experienced a cold night at 5.8 degrees Celsius.

Chandigarh's night temperature was 7.6 degrees Celsius, while in Punjab, Amritsar recorded a low of 5.4 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, footfall at the Taj Mahal fell considerably due to the cold. Only a few tourists were seen huddled together, shivering and wrapped up in shawls.

The city was enveloped in a thick blanket of fog, as the temperatures fell to 14 degrees Celsius.

Agra district magistrate Pankaj Kumar ordered all schools to conduct classes after 10 a.m., while Christian missionary schools are already closed for Christmas celebrations.

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