New Delhi, Jan. 8: A film of frost covered car roofs and lawns and Delhi woke up shivering in the coldest morning ever recorded in near-zero degree Celsius temperature.
The mercury plummeted to 0.2 degrees Celsius between 5.30 and 6 am, waking even those sleeping under warm quilts for a late Sunday morning.
But hundreds of thousands of the poor living in shanties on the dry flood plain of the Yamuna river in the capital and the homeless had a harrowing time with the municipal corporation-run night shelters running full.
The minimum temperature recorded at 4 degrees Celsius yesterday plunged sharply this morning. The Indian Meteorological Department had so far recorded January 10, 1935, as the coldest day in Delhi when the mercury was at 0.6 degrees Celsius.
More than 117 people have died in the cold wave in north India. At one point, Amritsar recorded minus 2 degrees Celsius.
Primary schools in Delhi have been advised to close down for three days to spare children the burden of braving the cold.
Cold winds have been sweeping through the city for the sixth day in succession, bringing icy blasts from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The chill factor makes the 0.2 degrees feel like minus 2 degrees.
Morning walkers were confused by the frost, not being accustomed to the phenomenon, but it only confirmed that it really is one of the coldest days ever. “At first, I thought there was water that someone had poured over my car,” said Dilip Saikia, an audit professional. “Then I put my hand to it and my fingers stiffened. It was like ice.”
The Met department called the phenomenon “ground frost”. Dew had frozen into icicles covering the ground and flat surfaces in the open with a sheen at daybreak.
“I had heard of frost in Delhi from my mother as a kid but had never really seen it till today,” said Anita Shah, a librarian.
“I did not quite realise what it was but my sneakers squeaked in the grass when I went for my walk to the Deer Park. So I bent down and there it was, powdery, and it made the grass look a lighter shade of green.”