Lucknow: Near-freezing temperatures and fog have killed another 20 people in northern India, raising the death toll to 34 since the start of the new year, a government official said Sunday.

The deaths occurred over the weekend as nighttime temperatures dipped to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) in parts of the region, which is used to short and mild winters.

Those killed have mostly been beggars or impoverished migrant workers who often sleep in the open, with only plastic sheets or jute cloth sacks for cover.

A 72-year-old woman and her two young grandchildren died overnight when her thatched hut caught fire after she lit a bonfire to keep the family warm in Kanpur, an industrial town in Uttar Pradesh state, said Surendra Srivastava, a police spokesman.

Police recorded 14 other cold-related deaths Saturday and Sunday in the state's Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Mahoba, Sant Kabirnagar and Barabanki districts, Srivastava told The Associated Press.

Another three people were killed when their car hit a truck in fog in Kanpur, Srivastava said.

Authorities in Uttar Pradesh decided Sunday to light bonfires of wood and waste cardboard to keep homeless people warm.

In New Delhi, several schools were closed until Tuesday because of bitter cold.

J.P. Gupta, director of the state meteorological department said the cold spell was likely to continue for at least another week.

Uttar Pradesh is one of India's poorest states and nearly a fifth of its 180 million people are homeless, according to state government statistics.

Last year, the state reported 151 cold-related deaths.