Severe cold conditions in north India claimed 120 lives, even as night-long snowfall in the upper reaches of Kashmir cut off the valley from rest of the country for the second day on Monday. Uttar Pradesh accounted for the bulk of 110 deaths this winter, while Bihar reported eight deaths and Haryana two.
Nearly 40 persons died in different parts of Uttar Pradesh since Sunday night as intense cold conditions continued to grip the state, officials said in Lucknow.
While light showers in parts of Rajasthan led to a further dip in temperature in the desert state, the national capital, which had a clear sky, experienced icy winds blowing from the snowcapped northern mountains though the minimum temperature rose slightly. Traffic on the 300-km Srinagar-Jammu national highway, the arterial link between Kashmir and rest of the country, remained suspended while poor visibility at Srinagar international airport affected air operations this morning.
The Srinagar-Jammu highway was closed as heavy snow on the road between Qazigund to Banihal rendered it slippery. The Border Roads Organisation faced difficulty in clearing the road on which some 2,000 vehicles were stranded. Morning flights on the Delhi-Srinagar and Jammu-Srinagar sectors could not operate for the second day due to poor visibility at the airport.
In the Ladakh region, there was no let up in the cold wave as mercury continued to remain sub-zero. Kargil recorded a minimum of minus 16.8 degrees Celsius while Leh recorded minus 13.6 deg C, the Met office said. Qazigund in south Kashmir, which recorded 20.6 mm rain and snow till 8.30 am today, was the coldest place in the valley with a low of minus 5.6 deg C followed by Pahalgam at minus 4.1 deg C. In Jammu region, Banihal with night temperature of minus 0.7 deg C was the coldest place.
Light showers in parts of Rajasthan today led to a further dip in temperature in the desert state where Mount Abu was the coldest place at 3.1 deg C. Cold wave swept Himachal Pradesh where the higher reaches experienced heavy snowfall, while rains lashed the lower areas, breaking the long dry spell and bringing cheer to farmers ahead of Rabi sowing. Shimla had a sunny morning after a night temperature of 2.1 deg C -- a sharp fall from 7.1 deg C the previous night.
A large number of tourists thronged Kufri to enjoy the season's first snowfall. Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti, was the coldest place with a minimum temperature of minus 7.4 deg C, while at Kalpa in Kinnaur district it was minus 6 deg C. In Uttarakhand, rains and snowfall intensified the cold conditions affecting normal life.
Dehradun recorded a low of 3 deg C. The national capital recorded a minimum temperature of 9.6 deg C against Sunday's minimum of 9.5 deg C. The maximum temperature on Sunday was 15.3 deg C -- seven degrees below normal.
Morning mist reduced visibility to 1,000 metres but there was no disruption in flight operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The Met office has forecast possibility of mist or shallow fog in the morning on Tuesday.
The Delhi government is considering closing at least the primary schools in the capital to give relief to children. All government and private schools in Ludhiana in Punjab will remain closed till January 8.
Cold conditions abated in Punjab and Haryana with minimum temperature rising by up to three notches against normal, even as two persons died because of cold in Ambala.
According to the Met department, the cold wave is expected to tighten its grip, with the mercury likely to fall by two to four notches below normal within the next 24 hours in the region. Amritsar continued to be the coldest place witnessing a low of 0.8 deg C.
Meanwhile, a report from Ambala in Haryana said two persons died due to the cold wave on Sunday night. The dense fog conditions prevailing in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh also affected the schedule of trains.
Eight persons died due to the cold wave in Bihar, which also experienced dense fog. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered closure of school for three days from Tuesday in view of the cold and directed the disaster management department to arrange bonfires.