ISLAMABAD, Jan 6: A persistent, biting cold wave gripping different regions of the country for the past three days has caused a severe dislocation: aggravation in the plight of the quake-affected, migration from mountainous areas to the plains and gas rationing.

Lahore saw the coldest day since 1935 on Saturday as the temperature fell one degree below zero Celsius.

Three homeless people have died in Multan and two in Lahore since Thursday.

The mercury has stayed below the freezing point in Islamabad and in most parts of the NWFP, Azad Kashmir and Balochistan. Kalam (-14ºC) was the coldest place in the country on Saturday.

The Met Office has forecast that the spell would continue at least till Monday.

The victims of last year’s earthquake are the worst sufferers as some of them are still sheltered in makeshift houses. Pneumonia and respiratory infections have shown an alarming rise, especially among the aged and children.

In Azad Kashmir, the towns of Muzaffarabad, Athmuqam, Nausheri and Bagh threw up heart-rending scenes when many quake-hit people had to leave their shelters as an unrelenting snowfall made them uninhabitable.

The Sui Northern Gas Company announced that it was reducing supply to industrial units and residential areas to cope with a jump in demand.

About 200 factories in Punjab and the NWFP have been forced to cut production in the wake of the reduced gas supply.

In Balochistan, the cold wave has affected water and gas supplies.

People in Chaman, Qila Abdullah, Ziarat and Pishin have started moving to more hospitable places to escape the punishing weather.

The lowest temperature in Quetta on Saturday was -9ºC. Water pipelines burst at several points in the provincial capital.

FORECAST: The Met Office has forecast that the spell would continue at least till Monday.

Chief Meteorologist Shaukat Awan said the cold wave had gripped most regions in the Sub-continent.

“A high pressure area caused by north-westerly and north-easterly winds is the source.”

Mr Awan said generally a `high pressure area’ was followed by a ‘low pressure area’, leading to a change in wind direction that brings rain.

“This is followed by a drop in temperature.”—APP/PPI

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