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At least 50 dead in cold snap

Lack of blankets and clothing contribute to deaths

At least 50 dead in cold snap
Severe cold and dense fog are creating harsh conditions (Photo by Antuni David, Thakurgaon district) reporter, Dhaka

January 2, 2013

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At least 50 people have died so far after a cold snap hit Bangladesh on December 24.

Kurigram district has recorded 32 cold-related deaths, with most of the victims infant children, and temperatures are expected to remain low in the coming days.

“Thousands of people in the north have been hospitalized because of cold-related asthma, pneumonia and diarrhea," said Monirul Islam, senior deputy secretary from the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry. "The death toll may rise."

The demand for warm clothes and blankets in the northwest is higher than it has been for the past five years and the government has already distributed 339,000 blankets, he said. 

Development organizations such as the Catholic charity Caritas have also rushed to aid cold victims.

“We are currently collecting the names of needy people to distribute warm clothes worth 1.5 million taka (US$19,000). Distribution will start in a day or two,’ said Pintu William Gomes, a disaster management official with Caritas.

Lows were around 8 degrees Celsius (45 Farenheit) yesterday.  

“Temperatures could drop further to six degrees Celsius and the situation may continue for the next few days,” said Bazlur Hossain from the meteorological office in Dhaka.

Harun-ur-Rashid, a farmer from Rangpur district in the north that recorded 10 deaths, said many villagers like him cannot sleep at night or work during the day because of the cold.

“We try to keep ourselves warm by making a fire. We have received three blankets from the government but it’s not enough for a five-member family,” he said.       

Dense fog has affected land and water transportation, with ferry services suspended for hours at a time due to low visibility.

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