1,000 South Asians die in cold spell
DHAKA - As fierce icy winds swept in from the Himalayas, the death toll from a month-long cold spell rose to at least 986 people in northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh, officials said yesterday.
Most of the dead were the poor and homeless living on pavements, often with just scraps of clothes to protect them from near-freezing temperatures resulting from fresh snowfall in the Himalayas.
The greatest number of deaths was in Bangladesh, where The Independent newspaper said about 400 people had died in the past month, in the country's worst winter in six years.
The rest of the deaths were in India's populous northern states near the Himalayas and the mountain kingdom of Nepal.
Although not cold by the standards of many other nations, the drop in temperature has had a devastating effect on thousands.
Temperatures have dipped to between 3 deg C and 6 deg C throughout much of the region.
Authorities have distributed blankets and built temporary overnight shelters for the poor in schools and other buildings in northern India, where exposure kills dozens of people every year as temperatures drop at night.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia distributed blankets to pavement dwellers in Dhaka. The government has sanctioned 50,000 blankets for distribution among the homeless.
A dense fog shrouded large parts of Bangladesh and India, throwing air, rail and road transport out of gear, and forcing authorities to close schools in parts of northern India.
Weather officials said the chilly weather was likely to continue over the next few days. -- Reuters, AP