DHAKA (AFP) - Temperatures in subtropical Bangladesh hit a 70-year-low Monday (Jan 8) as authorities handed out tens of thousands of blankets to help the poor fight a record cold spell, officials said.
The mercury plunged to a frigid 2.6 degrees Celsius in some parts of Bangladesh, well below average in the low-lying riverine nation whose 160 million citizens are used to milder winters.
"It is the lowest temperature since authorities started keeping records in 1948," Shamsuddin Ahmed, head of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The previous low of 2.8 degrees was recorded in 1968, he added.
Ahmed said Bangladesh was in the "grip of a severe cold wave", with temperatures dipping across all northern districts over the past few days.
The coldest temperatures were recorded in the border town of Tetulia, about 400km north of the capital Dhaka.
One local broadcaster reported that at least nine people had died from exposure, including six in one of the coldest locations in the northern district of Kurigram.
Officials said they were not aware of any deaths so far.
Authorities have distributed at least 70,000 blankets to poorer Bangladeshis shivering in the coldest areas of Panchagarh and Nilphamari, government administrators in those two districts said.
Panchagarh administrator Jahirul Islam told AFP more blankets were expected to arrive on Tuesday when a senior government minister toured the rural region.
The cold snap comes as records tumbled on a frosty US East Coast, with New York on Sunday shivering through minus 15.5 degrees Celsius in the wake of a deadly winter storm blamed for at least 22 deaths last week.
At the other end of the scale, Australia's largest city Sydney on Sunday recorded its hottest day since 1939, as the mercury soared to 47.3 degree C.