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Fog blankets north India, Amritsar colder than Shimla

New Delhi/Srinagar/Shimla/Chandigarh/Jaipur/Lucknow: It was yet another bone-chilling day across northern India Monday, and the entire region remained blanketed under dense fog. Temperatures in many places in Jammu and Kashmir went below the freezing point, while cities like Amritsar and Karnal in the plains proved colder than hilly Shimla.

New Delhi saw a cold and foggy Monday morning, with visibility dropping to less than 100 metres. The minimum temperature settled at 4.8 degrees Celsius. Sunday was the season's coldest day at 2.6 degrees Celsius.

The Northern Railway said 78 trains coming into the capital were delayed while 20 trains departing from Delhi were rescheduled.

The intense cold continued across Jammu and Kashmir, as Srinagar saw the minimum temperature of 4.1 degrees Celsius below the freezing point, Gulmarg minus 3.4 and Pahalgam a whopping minus 7 degrees.

Leh town in the Ladakh region recorded a minimum of minus 15.4 degrees Celsius, while Jammu saw a low of 4.3.

In Srinagar, frost made roads slippery, preventing motorists and two-wheel riders from venturing out, while surfaces of the city's famed lakes froze, causing hardship to fishermen and boatmen.

In the plains of Punjab, Amritsar was the coldest city in the region with the minimum at the freezing point. Ludhiana and Patiala in Punjab saw lows of 4.1 and 3.4 degrees, respectively.

Chandigarh saw a low of three degrees Celsius, while in Haryana, Karnal (2.6), Ambala (3.7) and Hisar (3.1) were in the grip of an intense cold wave.

Dense fog continued to disrupt normal life in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Hill stations across Himachal Pradesh Monday saw partly cloudy skies, but temperatures in most places remained at sub-zero levels.

Shimla meteorological office director Manmohan Singh told IANS there were chances of snowfall across the state from Jan 3.

Shimla - located around 7,000 feet above sea level - and the areas close to it were 'warmer' Monday compared to places in the neighbouring plains.

The Himachal Pradesh capital recorded a low of 3.1 degrees Celsius, while Amritsar in Punjab was the coldest in the region registering mercury at the freezing point. Haryana's Karnal (2.6) was also colder than Shimla.

"It's pleasant in Shimla. As we entered the hills, the mellow sunshine greeted us. What a relief," said Abhishek Nayyar, a tourist from Chandigarh. "The chill in the plains is literally sending shivers down your spine," his wife Shallu added.

The desert state of Rajasthan continued to shiver in the grip of a cold wave Monday as dense fog affected normal life and led to delays in train services.

Mercury plummeted to a record low of 3.4 degrees Celsius in state capital Jaipur, while the city of lakes Udaipur was equally cold at 3.2 degrees.

Churu was the coldest in the plains at 0.6 degree, while Mount Abu, the only hill station in the state, was shivering at 0.5 degree.

Most parts of Uttar Pradesh were Monday blanketed by dense fog which crippled rail and air transport. At least 25 people died during the weekend, taking the toll due to the extreme cold to 125.

With temperatures in New Delhi reaching freezing levels, Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung instructed the authorities to set up tents below flyovers for the homeless and also asked the Delhi Metro to provide space for setting up more night shelters.

Jung has allocated a sum of Rs.7 crore to the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board in addition to the Rs.5 crore allocated recently.

However, homeless people lamented lack of assistance from the government, and said they feel ignored and hoped the inclement weather shows mercy on them soon.

"We are not getting any assistance from the government, not even shelter. Due to this, we are forced to live on the streets. We don't have woollen clothes, hence we spend our nights shivering. Nobody is doing anything to make our life comfortable," Rajiv Kumar, a homeless man living near Vasant Kunj, told IANS.

It is estimated that there are around 67,000 to 150,000 homeless in the capital.

According to a survey by NGO Centre for Holistic Development, at least 248 people have died of cold since the beginning of December.

Despite these shelters, many homeless are not even aware of their existence and are wondering where they can hide in the chilly winter.

"We are not getting any help from the government and there is no authority available to complain about the issue. We also don't have proper clothes. Please tell us what should we do," pleaded Anuj, a rickshaw puller.

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