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Deaths from cold spell climb to over 100

Lowest temperatures since 1968 recorded in the northwest

Deaths from cold spell climb to over 100
Children keep warm by making fire in northwestern Thakurgaon (photo by Antuni David Neel) reporters, Dhaka, Rangpur, Thakurgaon and Krigram

January 11, 2013

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The coldest winter snap in 40 years has claimed over 100 lives with 50 deaths in the past week attributed to the unusual drop in temperature, authorities said.

The death toll is expected to rise further, especially in northwestern areas, where thousands of people remain hospitalized with illnesses including asthma and pneumonia.

Dr Lokman Hakim in Kurigram, one of the coldest areas in recent days, said that hospitals have suspended time off for doctors and nurses in a bid to deal with the large influx of people.

“We have 150 patients receiving treatment in our hospital.” he said, a number way above average.

Syedpur in Nilphamari district in the northwest yesterday recorded the lowest temperature in Bangladesh since 1968 at just three degrees as an unusually low air current passes, according to the Dhaka Meteorological office.

“Nobody has come to us with aid. We desperately need warm clothes and blankets for survival,” said Abdul Kashem, a 51-year-old rickshaw puller whose family lives in a dilapidated house ill-equipped for the cold on the outskirts of Thakurgoan close to Syedpur.

Many rickshaw drivers and other workers sleep outside in Bangladesh, a country in the tropics which typically sees warm, humid weather.

Farid Ahmed, head of relief at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, said the government has given out more than 410,000 blankets and donated 50.15 million taka (US$629,000).

In the longer term, the northwest of Bangladesh is expected to see as much as half of its winter rice crop destroyed by the cold weather, said Pratik Mondol, deputy director of the state-run Department of Agricultural Extension.

“Boro (winter) rice can’t tolerate temperatures below eight degrees Celsius,” he said.

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