NEW DELHI:An Indian state government declared the most bitter winter this century a natural disaster yesterday and began distributing blankets and firewood to some two million people, as the death toll due to cold in South Asia topped 2,250.
The unprecedented decision by Chief Minister Rabri Devi of eastern Bihar state to declare the cold wave a natural disaster allows victims to claim compensation.
“The chief minister has directed all district magistrates to arrange bonfires at various places and asked the forest department to provide wood to all the districts,” a government statement said.
The statement said the government had sanctioned 300 million rupees (RM24mil) ) to distribute firewood and blankets to two million people.
All schools and colleges have been closed for an indefinite period, an official said yesterday..
At least 21 people have died in northern Punjab and Haryana states.
In Bangladesh, 23 people died, pushing the toll so far to 748, even as temperatures began to rise steadily yesterday.
The chill has also claimed 80 lives in Nepal and 50 in Pakistan.
Most victims have been those least prepared for the harsh winter – the homeless, children and the elderly. – AP
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