New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) Biting winter continued its assault over north and central India Thursday with 11 more deaths in Uttar Pradesh, the minimum temperature touching new lows in Agra and Jaipur, and Haryana and Punjab getting paralysed in dense fog and Jharkhand reporting 45 deaths so far.
As many as 11 deaths were reported from eastern Uttar Pradesh, taking this winter's toll in the state to 59. With the minimum touching as low as 0.6 degrees Celsius in Agra and the maximum not rising above 13.6 degrees, icy conditions prevailed with hardly a ray of sunlight piercing through the thick clouds, mist and fog in most other places.
Thick fog hit hard air, train and road traffic with the Chandigarh airport shut due to poor visibility and trains running behind schedule. The fog also caused traffic jams, particularly on highways, disrupting inter-state road traffic.
The bone-piercing cold wave has claimed over 45 lives in Jharkhand so far this winter, with capital Ranchi recording the highest 11 deaths. Ranchi recorded a minimum of 4.2 degrees Celsius with one of its localities, Kanke block, shivering at 0.5 degrees. In ten of the 24 districts of Jharkhand, the temperature was below 5 degrees Celsius.
In the wake of the intense cold, Chandigarh, Agra and Ranchi extended the winter break for schools till Jan 11, Jan 10 and Jan 9, respectively.
The markets remained deserted in the evenings. In most parts of north India people huddled around bonfires.
Chilly winds from the northern region kept temperatures below average in Delhi, where Thursday's maximum temperature was 14.5 degrees Celsius, six notches below the average for this time of the season, while the minimum was at 5.3 degrees, two notches below average.
However, Delhiites can expect some relief in the coming days.
According to the India Meteorological Department, the next few days will see a slight rise in temperatures coupled with change in wind direction, which will further arrest the dip in mercury levels.
Three people have died in the national capital due to cold since the last week of December, an official said.
The freezing cold wave continued across the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region with Srinagar at minus 5 degrees Celsius and Leh at minus 16.2 degrees. However, the Met department said some relief was expected by Saturday.
Rajasthan also reeled under bitter cold with Jaipur recording its lowest temperature in the last 20 years at 1.4 degrees Celsius. Jobner was shivering at zero degree Celsius while Mount Abu, the only hill station in Rajasthan, was freezing at minus 3 degrees.
Reports of the extreme cold weather hitting standing crops like Mustard and Jeera (cumin) also came in.
The harsh cold intensified its grip in Himachal Pradesh with Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district being the coldest town with a low of minus 14.9 degrees Celsius. The Met department predicted rain and snow at isolated places in the high hills Friday.
The day in Shimla, Bhuntar, Dharamsala, Sundernagar and Solan was comparatively warmer due to prevailing sunny conditions. These towns saw the maximum temperature at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 17.2 degrees, 18.6 degrees, 20.6 degrees and 20.5 degrees, respectively.
Icy winds from the northern regions kept temperatures below average in the national capital. Delhi recorded a minimum of 5.3 degrees Celsius, two notches below average.
The mercury dipped below normal in most parts of Punjab and Haryana. Haryana's Narnaul town was coldest with a low of 0.5 degrees Celsius, six notches below normal.
Hisar saw a sharp plunge in the mercury, at 1.8 degrees. Ambala and Karnal towns recorded 5.3 and 3.4 degrees Celsius, respectively.
Chandigarh recorded a minimum temperature of 5.7 degrees Celsius, three notches below average.
Kanpur was even worse with the mercury dipping to this season's low of 3.7 degrees while the maximum stood at 8.6 degrees that was described as 14 degrees below normal.