NEW DELHI: The federal government has on Monday confirmed that over 130 people have died so far due to the extreme cold wave conditions prevailing in north and east of India, including two homeless persons who froze to death in Delhi.
NGOs and police put the figure much higher. Delhi Police claim to have recovered 237 dead bodies from streets since the beginning of December, out of which 167 were those of homeless people.
Thousands of homeless people including women and children are forced to spend nights on pavements despite the government setting up night shelters in various parts of the metropolis.
Delhi recorded the seasons coldest day on Monday morning with temperature dropping down to 2.4 degree Celsius while neighbouring Haryana township Gurgaon recorded 0.4 degree Celsius, making it even colder than Shimla, the capital of the Himachal Pradesh.
The thick fog cover has made commuting dangerous. Rail and air traffic have been severely affected. According to Indian railways, 78 trains were running well behind the schedule while departures of 20 trains were rescheduled on Monday due to late arrival of connecting trains.
The situation was even worse at Delhis Indira Gandhi International Airport as 137 flights were delayed on Monday morning and 14 had to be cancelled with runway visibility reduced to about 50 metres.
Harried passengers complained of lack of proper information at both railways stations and the airport, which were teeming with passengers. Waiting areas were jam packed and passengers were forced to stand for hours.
The Delhi government has ordered closure of all schools till further orders while classes in Gurgaon schools start one hour late.
Among those affected by Delhis notorious fog was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who could not travel to Ranchi to attend swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected Raghubar Das government on Sunday.
New Year revellers may find it difficult to reach home as the Met department has predicted end of foggy conditions only on Thursday when it expects rain.
Delhis fog is basically smog caused by high levels of pollutions in the air. Delhi blames neighbouring states Haryana and Punjab for it as farmers in the two states put their fields on fire after harvesting to clear the dried leftover plants.
The Delhi metro is witnessing heavy load of passengers as many office goers prefer taking the metro to reach their work places rather than drive in near-zero visibility.
The Delhi Police have issued instructions about dos and donts for motorists for driving safely in fog including switching on hazard lights and driving with low beam on. Other measures include following painted roadside pavements and road dividers.
While the weather is expected to improve in the first week of January, cold wave conditions may continue until the January-end.
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