Much of northern India is in the grip of a spell of cold weather which has brought problems with snow and fog.

On Monday morning New Delhi recorded its lowest start to a day in five years, with the mercury falling to 4.2C. Temperatures in Agra and Amritsar were even lower, at 3C.

The winter solstice on 21st December is the start of Chillai-Kalan in In Jammu and Kashmir, a 40-day period seen as the harshest part of winter. Here, snow has fallen in recent days.

The low temperatures have allowed fog to form in many parts of the region, adding to the cold feel of the weather.

Travel and transport have been hit by reduced visibility, and there have been delays to many train services into and out of New Delhi, including the New Delhi to Chennai Express and the New Delhi to Trivandrum Express.

The Indira Gandhi International airport experienced more than a score of delays as fog reduced visibility to as little as 300 metres. Visibility was expected to remain below 1000 metres throughout Monday.

Visibility of less than 50 metres was reported in Jammu, Agra, Varanasi, Lucknow and Patna. The fog forced the closure of all schools in Lucknow.

The pattern of delay and disruption was repeated across northern India with temperatures in some parts of Uttar Pradesh falling to within a degree of freezing.  At Hindan, on the plains of Uttar Pradesh, the maximum temperature was just 1.9C as fog persisted throughout the day.

Although these temperatures may not appear particularly low by winter European or North American standards, it is important to remember than many Indians live in homes with little or no heating or insulation.

Already three people have died of suffocation after they lit a coal fire inside their house to keep warm.

The cold weather is expected to continue in the run-up to Christmas and fog will continue to hamper road, rail and air transport.

Source: Al Jazeera