The cold wave hitting northern India tightened its fingers around the Capital on Wednesday, adding to its victims a young man found huddled in a subway and taking its death toll to as many as 20 in five days.
Wednesday was the coldest day in Delhi in 44 years — or ever since records were kept in the city — with a maximum of 9.8 degrees, a remarkable 11 degrees below normal. The minimum was 4.8 degrees, two degrees below normal but up from Tuesday’s minimum of 4 degrees.
Rohit, the latest victim, was 24, and had been picked up from the Nigambodh Ghat subway in east Delhi on December 26. He died of pneumonia at the Hindu Rao hospital.
The most bitter part of the cold snap started on December 31, since when the weather has been particularly cruel on the homeless and destitute. While the official death toll so far is six, police sources pegged it at around 20.
A helpline run by St Stephen’s Hospital said it had received 24 calls in the past two days about homeless people in need of hospitalisation.
The city's more affluent also suffered from the extreme weather, with fog affecting more than a 100 flights and resulting in 10 cancellations.
The coming days are unlikely to be better, with the Met department forecasting a maximum of around 12 degrees and a minimum of around 5 degrees, with dense fog at the airport early on Thursday.
The chill winds that had blown into the city had helped clear some of the fog, but not enough to let the sun through, said OP Singh, the head of the Delhi Regional Met.
"This is the third day in succession when Delhi did not get as much sun shine as is required for the day temperature to rise," he added.
With schools and colleges shut for the Christmas break, office-goers and commuters bore the brunt of the weather. Those who could avoid getting out stayed huddled indoors, and vendors of room heaters went home a happy lot.