6 killed in avalanches, toll 219; coldest Feb day in Mumbai

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (UNI) Avalanches claimed six lives in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir taking the nationwide death toll in the cold wave to 219 as Mumbai experienced the coldest day in February today at 8.5 degrees Celsius.

Two children, identifed as Amar Chand (16) and Robin Singh (13) were killed when avalanches occurred at Sishu village in tribal Lahaul Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh taking the death toll in the state this winter to 14.

Four people were killed and two others injured and 32 people buried under a snow avalanche in Gujjar Pati area on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway were rescued early this morning.

A total of 141 deaths were reported this winter from Uttar Pradesh, 32 in Jammu and Kashmir, 20 in Gujarat, 14 in Himachal Pradesh, four each in Bihar and Punjab, three in Maharashtra and one each in Bihar, Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh.

In another incident, a woman was reported missing at Pandar village in the remote Dodra Kawar area of Shimla district.

Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Kuldeep Khoda announced a cash reward of Rs 50,000 for the Police Party for rescuing 32 people who were buried under an avalanche in south Kashmir early this morning.

This was the heaviest snowfall in 16 years in which more than 40 houses were damaged completely or partially in the Kashmir valley where more than 20 people have lost their lives due to avalanches and snow storm during the past one month.

Air traffic, which remained suspended for past three days due to snowfall and poor visibility, resumed today and Kingfisher and Indian Airlines operated additional flights for the stranded passengers. The 300-km-long Srinagar-Jammu National Highway remained closed for the fifth consecutive day today due to heavy snowfall and landslides.

About one thousand vehicles, including those carrying essential commodities and passengers, are stranded at different places on the highway.

In Maharashtra, mercury dipped to 4.6 degrees in Nasik and 8.5 degrees celsius in the country's financial capital Mumbai, making it the coldest day in February. The chilly weather continued unabated in other parts of the state with Pune registering 7.7 degrees, Aurangabad 7.3 degrees, Mahablashwar 6.5 degrees and Kolhapur 10.2 degrees.

In Punjab, Ludhiana, where the temperature fell to 0.9 degrees, six degrees below normal, was the coldest place, followed by Amritsar registering 1.8 degrees and Patiala at 3.8 degrees.

Dense cloud cover in the capital led to a sharp rise in mercury to 9.4 degrees, after northwesterly winds plummeted the same to 6.4 degrees yesterday.

The coming days could witness a sharp fall in mercury, with the weathermen forecasting a nearly two to four degrees drop in minimum temperatures due to strong Northwesterly winds blowing through the air due to the Eastwards movement of a Western disturbance.

Towards the east, in Kolkata the minimum temperature was recorded at 19.4 degrees, three degrees above the normal while the maximum was 29 degrees.

Rain or thundershowers are likely to occur at isolated places in West Bengal, Sikkim, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.

There is likeliness of rain and thundershowers at a few places in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura as well.

Night temperatures were appreciably below normal in Goa, Vidarbha and coastal Karnataka.

In the south, rain or thundershowers are likely to occur at isolated places in Telangana, Rayalseema, Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Met Office predicted light to moderate rain or snow at many places in Himachal Pradesh and light rain or thundershowers at isolated places in Punjab and Haryana during the next 48 hours.

UNI Team AKJ VC1852

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