Chilliest December spell in 22 years hit northern India

NEW DELHI: Cold weather has gripped northern India with the national capital Delhi recording its chilliest December spell in 22 years.
“The severe cold conditions (were)due to persistence of cold north-westerly winds over northwest India combined with other favourable meteorological conditions,” said M Mohapatra, director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
The low in Delhi was 4.2 degrees Celcius on Thursday night, some 6 degrees below average.
Pockets of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan states have been experiencing a cold spell since December15.
Local administrations in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and other states were arranging for shelters, blankets and wood for fires for the homeless and street dwellers, the Times of India newspaper reported.
The Himalayan regions of Kashmir and Ladakh recorded sub-zero temperatures.
Srinagar in Kashmir recorded its coldest night of the season on Wednesday at 4.3 degrees Celsius, national television Doordarshan reported.
In Ladakh region, known as a cold desert, the town of Drass recorded a low of minus 29 degrees Celsius.
At least 38 people had died in Uttar Pradesh since Tuesday as the cold temperatures hit, IANS news agency reported, but a state Health Department official said it could not be confirmed that these were due to the cold wave.
Meanwhile, a massive locust invasion has destroyed thousands of hectares of crops in northwest India, authorities said, with some experts on Friday terming it the worst such attack in 25 years.
While officials have attempted to tackle the swarm with pesticides, farmers have deployed drums to drive away the insects, with videos showing schoolgirls banging on steel plates — due to local beliefs that loud noise repels locusts.
The invasion has damaged crops in half a dozen districts in the northwestern state of Gujarat, local government official Punamchand Parmar said on Thursday.
More than 5,000 hectares have been devastated in one district alone, Parmar said. “Nearly 25 per cent of the locusts had been destroyed using pesticide. However, it will take another 4-5 days to exterminate the insects completely,” he added.
“Their flight path was initially towards Pakistan but due to change in wind direction and moisture, they landed in… north Gujarat,” he said.
— Agencies