Comment: For several years now, northern India has experienced freezing or near-freezing temperatures in December...

cold wave india
© Prakash Singh / AFPIndian men huddle around a fire to keep warm on a roadside on a cold foggy morning in New Delhi on December 26, 2019.
A wave of unusually cold weather is sweeping across large swathes of India, from remote Kashmir to Delhi, forcing people to seek shelter and light bonfires on the streets.

Delhi has been hit with what local media described as 'bone-chilling days' this week. In the early hours of Friday, the temperature dropped to almost four degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit). This December is now on course to become the second coldest in terms of daytime temperatures the capital has seen since 1901, with December 1997 holding the top spot.

Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) warned on Friday that the cold wave will continue to sweep across northern, eastern and central parts of the country over the next two days.

The cold was coupled with thick fog, which caused delays for several trains bound for Delhi and flights at Delhi International Airport.

Extreme temperatures were also recorded in the mountainous Kashmir (-12 degrees Celsius, 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and Ladakh regions (-30 degrees Celsius, -22 degrees Fahrenheit), which are more used to harsh winters with heavy snowfall.

Residents in the Kashmir city of Srinagar told local media they are regularly facing 10-hour power outages, while in the Uttar Pradesh State (four degrees Celsius, 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit), 38 people have reportedly died from the cold in just two days. Local authorities have made extra efforts to provide shelters and firewood.

"Normally a spell of severe cold weather stretches to 5 or 6 days. But this year, since December 13, the temperature continues to dip... It is unique," Dr Rajendra Jenamani, a senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department, told local media.