A homeless man wrapped in a quilt sits in an open space on
a cold winter morning in the old quarters of Delhi. Heavy
fog and a cold wave in Northern India have disrupted life
in a number of cities, killing scores of homeless in the
state of Uttar Pradesh. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
The coldest weather in northern India for at least 44
years has killed more than 100 homeless people, an aid group
The capital New Delhi saw a maximum temperature of 9.8degC on
Tuesday - the lowest since records began in 1969. Fog forced
cancellation of flights and trains.
Anti-poverty charity ActionAid said it knew of 107 people who
had died in northern states because of cold and blamed state
authorities for not providing shelters despite instructions
from the Supreme Court.
"Over 100,000 homeless people in Delhi alone are exposed to
intense cold weather. Over 100 people have died in Uttar
Pradesh and a few people in Rajasthan," said Sandeep Chachra,
who works for the charity and reports to the Supreme Court.
Ambika Chaudhury, a minister in Uttar Pradesh, accepted there
had been deaths due to cold, as well as malnutrition, but
that their causes had yet to be officially confirmed.
Relief Commissioner L Venkateshwarlu, who oversees
compensation to victims' families in the state, said no
deaths had been certified as due to cold this winter and that
post-mortums would take a long time.
Winters in northern India have become colder in recent years,
said Rajendra Kumar Jenamani, a scientist at the
Meteorological Department. He blamed pollution from
industrialization and changing crop planting patterns.
"We cannot stop change in weather, but are trying to monitor
and adapt airport, railway services accordingly," he said.
The Supreme Court told state governments to provide winter
shelter for homeless people, but compliance was low and many
people sleep on pavements, Chachra said. In the winter it is
common to see entire families sleeping outside in New Delhi.
Weather officials said temperatures are expected to stay low
over the next few days.