Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jan 16

Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line?
Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Beware of Snakes? Be Aware of Snakes!
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Wet and windy at Pulau Semakau East
wild shores of singapore

Late Afternoon Walk At Venus Drive (23 Jan 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

House Sparrow
Singapore Bird Group

Singapore Scallop (Volachlamys singaporina) @ Chek Jawa
Monday Morgue

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Water levels at Linggiu Reservoir still low

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jan 16;

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli (centre, in blue) attending a focus group session on water at The Future Of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay yesterday. Participants gave suggestions on how Singaporeans can be encouraged to conserve water.

Water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor - a major supply source to Singapore - are now at about 49 per cent, despite the start of the north-east monsoon season last month.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli revealed the figure yesterday, saying: "At the beginning of 2015, it was about 80 per cent... At 50 per cent, it is quite a precarious number, because starting at that level, if we are ever hit with a long spell of lack of rain again, the Linggiu Reservoir water level can fall all the way down.

"The weather is something we can't control and, unfortunately, the rain does not always fall where you want it to."

He was speaking to reporters after a discussion about water for future generations, organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. It is part of the series of SGfuture engagement sessions.

Dry weather has caused a steady depletion of water in Linggiu Reservoir over the last year. In August, water levels dropped to 54 per cent capacity before dipping to a record low of 43 per cent in November.

In 1994, Singapore built the reservoir upstream of the Johor River, to collect and release rainwater and to push sea water back into the sea. This ensures that the river water is not too salty to be treated by the Singapore-run treatment plant there.

The Republic can draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) from the river - meeting up to 60 per cent of its current needs.

Mr Masagos said the Republic is working with Malaysia to ensure that its obligation of supplying Singapore with 250 mgd is met.

About 50 participants from non- governmental organisations, government agencies and members of the public gathered for yesterday's session at the The Future Of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay.

Participants gave suggestions on how Singaporeans can be encouraged to conserve water, which they felt many take for granted here.

Some suggested introducing water rationing exercises or increasing the price of water so that Singaporeans would be more mindful of their water usage.

Ms Chai Ning, 20, who is doing environmental studies at the National University of Singapore, said that schools could look into installing water meters to show how much is being used and at what cost.

"Singaporeans are very spoilt, in the sense that water is so easily available," she said.

"Many of us are not aware of the amount of water we use."

Singapore's current water demand stands at 400 mgd - enough to fill 730 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

By 2060, total water demand is expected to double, with the non-domestic sector making up 70 per cent of total demand.

Dialogue session brings up ideas to conserve water
About 40 participants at a dialogue session on water conservation have suggested ways to help to save water.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 25 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Some ideas raised at a dialogue on water conservation on Sunday (Jan 24) included increasing the price of water, or equipping homes with devices to monitor water usage.

The dialogue involved about 40 youths, members of non-governmental organisations and industry leaders. The session, hosted by Environment and Water Resources ministry, is part of the ongoing SGfuture conversations, which provides Singaporeans with a platform to come together to share their views, aspirations and ideas for the future.

Singapore consumes 400 million gallons of water daily, the equivalent of 730 Olympic-sized swimming pools. About 45 per cent of this is from domestic use, as the average Singaporean uses 150 litres of water a day. Industries make up the remaining 55 per cent of demand.

At the dialogue, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that the nation needs to look at how it can cope with water demands in the long run, alongside the challenges of climate change.

Some solutions which participants came up with included equipping households with devices to view water consumption patterns in real-time. Some proposed educating the younger generation who have never undergone water rationing as well.

"Even though subconsciously we do think that it is important, but we don't really feel the pinch and the need, the very urgent need to save water when it comes out of taps so I think the solution to that is really how to bring the cost more upfront, like real-time scenarios of what happens when there is no water,” explained Chai Ning, a participant at the dialogue session.

There was also a proposal to increase the price of water. Currently, PUB charges S$2 for every 1,000 litres of water.

Said Ashokan Ramakrishnan, a participant: "In my home, water is the lowest cost item in my utility bills. And at that point, it's such a low amount it's difficult to make change. If there is a higher cost, it will force people to a point of discomfort and force us to change. The challenge here is around helping people understand how much they use and with that data available, people can make their own choices on how they want to change."

However, that is not a path the government wants to take.

"I hope we don't have to take tougher measures. But certainly like the episode the haze gave to us where air has always been free and then when it becomes polluted for a long time, we suddenly become more aware of how valuable it has been,” said Mr Masagos.

“We are pricing our water based on the long run marginal cost and because of that and the sources of supply, we are able to price it as cheap as possible, in fact, it is really cheap and therefore unfortunately because it is really cheap, people don't understand or cannot connect to the value it brings to us."

The ministry hopes sessions like these will spark more ground-up initiatives so citizens can take ownership of their water needs.

- CNA/xq

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Singapore authorities closely monitoring Zika virus: Amy Khor

There have been no cases of Zika diagnosed in Singapore yet, but the National Environment Agency and the Ministry of Health are monitoring the virus, which is spreading through Central and South America.
Olivia Quay Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Authorities in Singapore are closely monitoring the Zika virus, which is spreading throughout Central and South America, said Dr Amy Khor on Sunday (Jan 24).

During a visit to nurseries along Thomson Road, the Senior Minister of State for Health added that no cases have been detected in Singapore yet. However, medical experts have said that the Republic is “extremely vulnerable” to the virus.

"Singapore is vulnerable to the virus simply because Singaporeans travel a lot to the region, and of course there are also tourists here," said Dr Khor.

She added that while there have been no cases of Zika diagnosed in Singapore so far, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) did not rule out the possibility that there could be undetected cases since the symptoms of the virus are often mild, with some affected persons showing no symptoms at all.


In a statement on Sunday, MOH also said that it is "actively considering" precautionary measures against the virus. It added that NEA has stepped up its ongoing surveillance programme for the virus.

In the statement, MOH advised travellers to countries affected by the Zika virus to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing clothing that cover the body, arms and legs, applying insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screen. "Pregnant travellers are advised to undertake strict precautions against mosquito bites," the ministry added.

MOH also said that although the disease symptoms associated with the Zika virus infection are "usually mild", the outbreak in Brazil "has been associated with central nervous system (brain) malfunction in foetuses and infants of infected mothers, and investigations are ongoing in Brazil to confirm that there is a causal link".

The Zika virus has spread to parts of Asia, including Cambodia and Thailand. The virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever.

During the visit, Dr Khor also distributed educational material on the ways in which the public can stop mosquito breeding. With Chinese New Year around the corner and the public purchasing festive plants for their home, Dr Khor encouraged plant buyers to be more vigilant in dengue prevention.

A total of 477 cases were reported this week, 28 fewer than the corresponding period in the previous week.

Due to the warmer weather, NEA has seen an increase in the Aedes mosquito population. The agency has also found that mosquito breeding largely happens in homes. In 2015, NEA conducted more than 1.4 million inspections island-wide, and uncovered more than 19,000 instances of mosquito breeding.

- CNA/mz

Man, 47, dies from dengue in first reported death this year
The Singaporean had been staying at Marsiling Rise, in an area that was within an active dengue cluster with 10 cases, says MOH and NEA.

Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 16;

SINGAPROE: A 47-year-old man has died of dengue at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint news release on Sunday (Jan 24).

The man is the first person in Singapore to have died from dengue this year. The local death toll in 2015 was four.

The Singaporean stayed at Marsiling Rise, and he was admitted to KTPH on Thursday. His condition deteriorated and he died on Friday, authorities added.

They also said that the patient had been staying in an area that was within an active 10-case dengue cluster.

"NEA has been inspecting the premises in the area, and detected and destroyed six counts of mosquito breeding thus far, of which five were found in residential premises and one in common areas," the media release stated.

It added that vector control operations to kill adult mosquitoes and destroy potential breeding habitats have been ongoing since the notification of the cluster on Jan 5.

- CNA/hs

47-year-old man dies from dengue; first reported fatality in 2016

Today Online 25 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Amid an anomalous surge in dengue cases this year, a 47-year-old man died from the mosquito-borne disease on Friday (Jan 22) — the first fatality of the year.

In a joint statement today, the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the man, a Singaporean, lived at Marsiling Road and was admitted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) on Thursday. His condition deteriorated and he died a day later in the hospital.

The area the patient lived in was within an active dengue cluster with 10 cases, the statement said. The NEA has been inspecting the premises in the area and found six instances of mosquito breeding — five on residential premises and one in a common area.

A check on the NEA’s dengue website yesterday showed 32 high-risk areas across the island with at least 10 cases each, as of last Friday. There are another 111 areas that are classified as high-risk, but with fewer than 10 cases each.

Cumulatively, there were 477 cases last week, the lowest this year but still higher than the record weekly total in 2015 — 458. The figures for the first two weeks are 547 and 628, respectively.

Two weeks ago, the NEA attributed the spike in cases to an increase in the Aedes mosquito population and “slightly warmer-than-usual year-end weather due to the El Nino phenomenon”, which shortens the dengue virus’ incubation periods as well as the mosquitoes’ breeding and maturation cycles. It also warned that dengue figures are likely to rise as the weather heats up.

The proportion of dengue cases due to the DENV-2 serotype, a common type of dengue virus here, has also risen sharply and now accounts for two-thirds of all dengue cases here, up from about half of all cases a month earlier, the agency said then. The DENV-1 serotype has accounted for most cases here since March 2013.

Today, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources and Health Amy Khor visited two nurseries along Thomson Road to remind people shopping for plants for the Chinese New Year celebrations to play their part in keeping dengue at bay by preventing mosquito breeding.

Traditionally, Chinese like to buy plants such as pussy willow and “lucky” bamboo for the festivities. Dr Khor noted that vases are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

In a statement, the Health Ministry and NEA urged the public to stay vigilant and work together to prevent dengue cases from rising, including cooperating with NEA officers who wish to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding or to spray insecticide.

“We are seeing a further increase in the Aedes mosquito population due to the slightly warmer-than-usual year-end weather due to the El Nino phenomenon, which aids in breeding and spread of both the mosquito vector and the virus,” they said.

“In view of the warmer-than-usual weather persisting, the number of dengue cases in 2016 is expected to be high, with cases spiking earlier than in previous years. There is an urgent need to keep the mosquito population under control.”

Call for vigilance as Singapore is 'vulnerable' to the virus
Linette Lai, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jan 16;

A shopper with a flier on dengue prevention at a nursery in Thomson Road. The symptoms of dengue and Zika infections are broadly similar though Zika patients tend to develop conjunctivitis, more commonly known as red eye.

Singapore cannot rule out the possibility of the Zika virus making its way here, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said yesterday, as cases have been reported in neighbouring countries.

Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, added that the virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is very common here and also transmits dengue.

"Singapore would be vulnerable to the potential import of the Zika virus, simply because Singaporeans travel a lot to the region and, of course, there are tourists here," she said.

Apart from the outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean, small numbers of cases have been detected in East Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand, she said.

The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Infections have generally been considered mild, with many of those who have the virus not showing any symptoms.

However, the virus has recently been associated with brain malformation in foetuses and infants of infected mothers in Brazil, sparking widespread concern. The link, however, has not yet been conclusively proven.

Infectious diseases physician Leong Hoe Nam said the symptoms of dengue and Zika infections are broadly similar. But Zika infections tend to be milder, with less severe muscle aches and back pains than those usually associated with dengue, he told The Straits Times. In addition, Zika patients tend to develop conjunctivitis, more commonly known as red eye.

Dr Leong added that up to nine in 10 people infected with Zika may not show symptoms at all.

Yesterday, Dr Khor said that while there have been no reported cases of Zika here yet, Singaporeans should remain vigilant.

"There could be undetected cases, since the symptoms exhibited by infected persons could be mild, or some may not even exhibit (them)," she said.

Dr Khor was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to two plant nurseries along Thomson Road, during which she reminded shoppers to keep up the fight against dengue during the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Dengue numbers have been unusually high this year, with 136 active clusters as of last Friday, compared with 120 the week before.

This is attributable to a change in the prevailing strain of dengue, as well as the warmer weather in recent months, which facilitates mosquito breeding. While the predominant dengue strain for the past two years was Den-1, around two-thirds of all dengue cases now belong to the Den-2 serotype.

Yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Health Ministry (MOH) released a joint statement on this year's first dengue death. The 47-year-old man had lived in Marsiling Road in an active dengue cluster. He was admitted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital last Thursday, and died the next day.

The authorities said that steps to kill adult mosquitoes and destroy breeding spots have been in place in the area since Jan 5.

In the light of the expected spike in dengue cases this year, they said: "There is an urgent need to keep the mosquito population under control.

"Residents are urged to co-operate fully and allow NEA officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any infective mosquitoes."

In a separate statement on the Zika virus, the MOH advised people, especially those who are pregnant, to protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to countries with local transmission. They should wear clothing that covers the body and limbs, apply insect repellent, and sleep under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screens.

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Indonesia: Disaster agency urges people to increase alertness during rainy season

Antara 24 Jan 16;

Manado, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has called on the people to increase alertness in the face of the current rainy season.

"The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysic Agency (BMKG) has predicted that the rainy season will peak at the end of January 2016. Although the El Nino phenomen right now is still in high intensity yet its condition is expected to enter the neutral phase in March and April 2016," Head of the BNPB Data Information Center and Public Relations Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said here on Sunday.

He said that there were about 63.7 million people in Indonesia who were now living in areas sensitive to floods.

There are also 40.9 million people living in areas which were prone to landslides.

"They have to be safeguarded so that they would not be affected by disasters," Sutopo said.


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China hit by eye-watering cold snap

An orange alert was issued across the country as forecasts predicted eye-watering lows of -41 Celsius in some parts, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said.
Channel NewsAsia 23 Jan 16;

BEIJING: Much of China shivered Saturday (Jan 23) as a teeth-chattering cold snap broke decades-old records and snow fell in some parts for the first time in years, cancelling flights and forcing many indoors.

An orange alert was issued across the country as forecasts predicted eye-watering lows of -41 Celsius (-42 Fahrenheit) in some parts, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said.

Orange is the second most severe cold weather warning on China's four-tier scale, and forecasters said 30-year records were on course to be shattered in several parts of the country over the weekend, with two-thirds of the country facing temperatures below -12 C.

The north braced for the worst, with the temperatures predicted to plummet to -41 C in Genhe in Inner Mongolia. Neighbouring Mohe in Heilongjiang province didn't fare much better with the mercury expected to dip to -39 C.

The NMC said temperatures would not peak above the freezing mark in most parts of the country, with the exception of a few spots in the south, and state-run CCTV television urged people to stay inside to avoid the frigid weather.

More than 100 flights were cancelled and nearly 200 delayed in the southeast metropolis of Chongqing as snow blanketed the city for the first time in 20 years, airport authorities told AFP.

Snow dumped down in several other regions where the white stuff is scarcely seen, according to CCTV citing weather officials.

Bright sunshine bathed the capital Beijing where skies were clear blue, but the bright conditions brought little respite as thermometers dipped to -17 C in the morning. In the mountainous areas on the outskirts of the city, temperatures plummeted to an eye-watering -29.8 C.

Even the normally tropical beaches on the southern island of Hainan were not spared, with temperatures clocking in at a cool 13 C, according to state-run CRI radio.

Saturday afternoon the temperature had dropped to 6 C in the island province's capital Haikou, 13 degrees below the seasonal average according to CRI. Conditions are expected to return to slightly warmer seasonal norms from Tuesday in the north and by the end of next week in the south, CCTV said.

- AFP/yt

Hong Kong hit by coldest temperatures in nearly 60 years

Morning temperatures dropped to 3.3°C in urban areas of the southern Chinese city, where most buildings lack central heating, and below freezing in the hills.

Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 16;

HONG KONG: A cold snap gripped Hong Kong on Sunday (Jan 24), with residents shivering as temperatures plunged to the lowest point in nearly 60 years and frost dusted the mountaintops of a city accustomed to a subtropical climate.

Weather officials issued a frost warning saying an "intense cold surge" was in place, coupled with chilling monsoon winds.

Morning temperatures dropped to 3.3°C in urban areas of the southern Chinese city, where most buildings lack central heating, and below freezing in the hills. It is the coldest weather in 59 years, senior scientific officer Wong Wai-kin told AFP.

"It is the coldest day since 1957. The daily minimum dropped to 3.3°C, the previous record was 2.4°C in February of 1957," he told AFP.

While the cold snap is by no means on the scale of the weather now affecting the US and swathes of mainland China, such temperatures are a novelty for many residents.

"It is very cold and windy over Hong Kong. People are advised to put on warm clothes and to avoid prolonged exposure to wintry winds," read a note published on a city government website.

As the mercury dropped, curious residents flocked to higher ground in search of frost, according to local broadcaster Cable TV. "It's very cold, my feet feel numb," a young visitor to Tai Mo Shan, the highest mountain in Hong Kong, told the broadcaster.

Screenshots of flakes also swamped social media but weather forecasters said the precipitation was "rain with small ice pellets" rather than snow. About 20 participants of a cross country race were sent to hospital after experiencing symptoms associated with hypothermia, according to local media.

Conditions are not expected to warm up until the middle of the week, said weather forecasters. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the coldest weather occurred in January 1893, when temperatures plunged to 0°C.

- AFP/rw

Temperatures plummet as Asia gripped by big chill
A big chill is sweeping across North and South Asia and even parts of Southeast Asia. From India to Japan, the mercury is plummeting, in some places to its lowest in decades.
Channel NewsAsia 25 Jan 16;

HONG KONG: A big chill is sweeping across North and South Asia and even parts of Southeast Asia. From India to Japan the mercury is plummeting. Snow, sleet and icy winds across the region has caused deaths, flight cancellations and chaos over the weekend as areas used to basking in balmier climates struggled with record-low temperatures.


Officials said they recorded the lowest temperature in Hong Kong in nearly six decades, 3.1 degrees Celsius in urban areas.

The deep chill prompted hundreds of firefighters to rescue stranded hikers, with more than 80 people injured and suffering from hypothermia.

A record-breaking cold snap has hit much of China as well and turned some of the country's scenic spots into a winter wonderland.

State broadcaster CCTV said temperatures hit minus 41 degrees Celsius in the north on Saturday, the coldest level recorded since 1961.

Throughout the country, crews worked to clear snow-covered roads with many homes left without power. In Chongqing, authorities worked to clear a backlog of 4,000 travelers stranded at the regional airport.

Twenty-four weather stations around the country recorded all-time low temperatures between Friday and Sunday.

At Eergu'Na in Inner Mongolia, the temperature on Saturday hit a record low of -46.8 degrees Celsius, while the southern city of Guangzhou saw rare sleet, the first in 60 years, in its downtown area, the provincial meteorological station announced on Sunday.

Meteorologists said temperatures were rising again in the north, but warned the south could still see bone-chilling cold conditions.


In Taiwan, 85 had died as of Sunday evening as a result of the freezing conditions, including 35 deaths in Taoyuan in the island’s north, local media reported.

Most of the casualties were the result of hypothermia from the rapidly dropping temperatures, the Taoyuan City Fire Department said.

In Taipei, the temperature dropped to 4 degrees on Sunday, the lowest recorded temperature in the capital for 44 years.

Rare snowfall was also recorded in the high mountain areas of Yangming and Taiping. On Sunday, accumulated snow had reached 20cm in Taoyuan’s Lalashan Forest Recreation Area, CNA reported.

The Central Weather Bureau has issued a cold surge advisory across the entire island, in place until Tuesday morning.


Record-breaking heavy snowfall and low temperatures killed five people died and injured more than 100 on Sunday, officials and local media said.

Heavy snow blanketed the western and northern coasts of Japan over the weekend, lowering visibility and disrupting traffic.

Visibility was very poor in cities in coastal areas, and accumulating snow was narrowing the roads by the hour, causing accidents and stranding many cars.

Local governments dispatched snow plows to clear roads, but they made little progress as the snow accumulated faster and over a wide area.

In central parts of Tokyo, snow accumulated so quickly that people could barely manage to keep sidewalks accessible.

Public transportation was disrupted, with several bus and train lines suspending operations, and more than 160 flights canceled.

The heavy snow comes after lower than average snowfall until mid-January had forced many ski resorts to close down.

Such weather would have been a blessing to the regions relying on winter tourism, but the long awaited snow over the weekend has caused more havoc than good.

The snow was expected to last until Monday evening.

Japan's meteorological agency has issued several warnings and temperatures have dropped far below the average low for January.

Snowfall was also observed in the subtropical Amami Island in southern Japan for the first time in 115 years.


Close to 90,000 people were stranded on the South Korean resort island of Jeju on Monday after the biggest snowfall in three decades shut the airport for the third straight day.

Known as the Hawaii of South Korea for its beaches and usually warm climate, Jeju took the brunt of a week-long cold snap that sent the mercury plunging to record lows across the country.

The popular holiday destination has recorded its heaviest snowfall in three decades since Saturday, as the temperature dropped to -6.1 degrees Celsius.

Stranded travelers sit beneath a makeshift tent created using baggage trolleys at Jeju airport. (Photo: AFP/Yonhap)

Close to 1,100 flights were cancelled over the weekend and Monday, stranding some 86,000 frustrated travellers on the island, a ministry official said.

Thousands were forced to spend the night at the airport, bundled up in blankets and sleeping on cardboard boxes to avoid the freezing floors.

Although it was spared any snowfall, the capital Seoul recorded its coldest day in 15 years on Sunday, when the temperature fell to minus 18 degrees Celsius.

On Saturday, the state weather agency issued a cold wave warning for Seoul for the first time in five years.


In Thailand, the temperature dropped to 8 degrees Celsius in the northern most province of Chiang Rai early Monday morning, with the maximum not expected to exceed 9 degrees throughout the day.

According to the Meteorological Department, the cold spell is likely to continue into the week, with the temperature forecast to fall further by two to four degrees

In the capital Bangkok, a city that rarely sees the thermometer dip below 20-25 degrees Celsius, Bangkokians woke up to a crisp morning after the temperature went down to 16 degrees, an impact from the high-pressure zone that continues to cover the country’s north and northeast. It left Bangkokians, whose normal attire generally includes flip-flops and shorts, digging through their closets for jackets and jumpers.

Until Wednesday, Thailand’s northern regions can expect scattered thundershowers, gusty wind and six to ten degree drops in temperature.


Parts of North India shivered too as the mercury hit minus 16.6 degrees Celsius.

The national capital New Delhi was not spared with the temperature dipping below 5 degrees over the weekend.

The cold wave began on Friday, with fog causing delays at Indira Gandhi International Airport and forcing cancellations of train services in the capital.

- CNA/AFP/Reuters/jb/pp

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