The Heat Is Online

South Asia Cold Snap Kills More than 400

Hundreds die from the cold in South Asia
The Associated Press, Jan. 8, 2003

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) Nearly 400 people have died of cold in Bangladesh and northern India in the past 10 days as temperatures plummeted and cold winds swept in from the Himalayas, officials and news reports said Wednesday.

The cold sweeping across northern Bangladesh caused 60 deaths this week, raising the toll to 260, media reports said.

Temperatures dipped into the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit - dangerous levels in impoverished India and Bangladesh, where millions of people live without heat, electricity and warm clothing.

At least 24 people died Tuesday night in India's Uttar Pradesh state, pushing the death toll there to 128, Home Ministry officials said in Lucknow, the state's capital.

Schools in the state have been ordered closed until Monday.

In India's eastern Bihar state, 11 people have died due to cold, officials said. Newspapers, however, said at least 80 people had died.

The latest deaths in Bangladesh occurred Monday and Tuesday in the northern districts of Dinajpur, Gaibandha, Pabna and Rajshahi, where the temperature dropped to 48 degrees Fahrenheit, Dhaka's Janakantha newspaper reported.

Most of the dead were children and elderly villagers who lived in mud-and-straw huts and could not afford warm clothing. At least 200 children have been hospitalized with fever.

Bangladesh government officials confirmed there had been deaths from the cold, but declined to give any figures.

Officials in India's Uttar Pradesh state said their death toll was only compiled from urban districts, and did not include remote rural areas.

"Nobody is looking at the villages where the cold is even more intense because of open fields," said Sukhram Pandey, a Lucknow doctor.

The coldest temperatures were in Lucknow, where the mercury dipped to 38 degrees Fahrenheit, said weather official A.K. Verma.

District authorities in the worst hit areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states have ordered public bonfires to be lit and allowed the use of schools and government buildings as shelters for the homeless.

The cold temperatures have also brought dense fog, which reduced visibility on the roads in Lucknow to a few yards. Flights were canceled and trains were running five to eight hours late. Hundreds of stranded passengers were huddled on the platforms at the city's central railway station.

In Bangladesh, the weather office said it would remain cold and foggy for another week. Long distance bus and ferry services were disrupted as fog blanketed highways and rivers across the delta nation.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press.