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Homeless, poor and old bear the brunt of India’s cold snap

Homeless, poor and elderly people suffered the most when a cold wave sweeping across India killed at least 100 people. Local authorities have been asked to arrange shelter for the vulnerable as most deaths so far have taken place among poor people sleeping on the streets or out in the open and elderly people in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Every year scores of people in India dies because they aren’t properly equipped to deal with extreme cold. Indian cities and towns have few homeless shelters and although the authorities have handed out blankets and firewood, their efforts haven’t been enough in the face of the extreme cold, said a BBC correspondent in Delhi. The deaths have been reported since Wednesday from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the national capital, New Delhi, and the eastern states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Estimates of the number of dead vary from 25 to 100. India’s weather bureau said the cold conditions would carry on over the next few days.

Uttar Pradesh, where temperatures have ranged from 1 to 4 degrees centigrade, was hit the hardest with a death toll of at least 72 after 16 more deaths were reported since Sunday, the CNN news network reported. Most of the victims were homeless people in districts such as Banda, Fatehpur, Sonabhadra and Kanpur, the report said.The states of Jharkhand and Bihar reported 13 and 11 deaths, respectively, over the past few days, the IANS news agency reported. The remaining deaths were reported from Delhi and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Authorities in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand were arranging for shelters for the poor and issued orders for bonfires to be lit along roads for the homeless.

This morning (Monday) several people across India were hurt in some minor accidents caused by fog. Heavy fog and a cold wave have disrupted life across northern India and fog caused two separate train accidents in Uttar Pradesh leaving 10 people dead and nearly 50 injured. Railway officials said the impact was minimal because the trains were travelling well below their normal speed because of the dense fog. Poor visibility has also affected rail and air traffic in the region with several flights and trains cancelled, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded. In neighbouring Pakistan also, fog in the central Punjab region has also shut down highways and affected railway and flight schedules.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children