Icy weather brought winter chills to the Mau Son Tourism Area in mountainous Lang Son Province on Jan 5 morning after a severe cold spell hit northern Vietnam, according to the provincial Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre.

Temperatures dropped to minus 0.6 degrees at 7am and rain added to the severity of the weather, said Ha Van Tien, director of the provincial centre.

Day-time temperatures were no higher than 4-6 degrees Celsius in other areas in the province, he said.

Temperatures in the area were forecast to drop even lower during the next three days, said Tien.

Despite the severe cold, numbers of young visitors higher than normal travelled to the Mau Son Tourism Area to see ice on Jan. 5 afternoon, reported a Vietnam News Agency correspondent in the province.

Fortunately, icy weather did not disrupt the daily lives of local residents too much thanks to prompt action from the local authorities, although local primary and secondary schools have given students time off due to the cold snap, he said.

The daytime low fell to 8 degrees Celsius, one degree lower than Jan. 4, and a high of 14 degrees Celsius in Hanoi on Jan. 5, according to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

This is the most severe cold spell to hit the north since the beginning of the season. Temperatures are predicted to remain low for at least the next three days.

The Hanoi Education and Training Department has instructed education and training offices to adjust school hours to keep children from having to attend school early in the morning when conditions are especially cold.

Schools have also been asked to ensure classrooms have proper windows and doors as well as lighting systems.

Primary students are allowed to stay at home on days when temperatures drop to below 10 degrees Celsius while secondary students do not have to attend school if the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius.

Weather updates are available on Vietnam Television's VTV1 at 6am everyday.

Nguyen Thi Hang, a kindergarten principal in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District, said 170 out of their 650 students had not attended classes since Jan.3 due to the cold spell.

The situation is the same in Hanoi's outskirts.

"Only 137 students went to school on Jan. 4 out of a total of 560," said Hoang Nhat Le, principal of Tan Vien Kindergarten in mountainous Ba Vi District.

"We have adjusted school hours and provided blankets, warm water and slippers to keep students warm," she said.

Doctors at the Bach Mai Hospital Paediatrics Department and the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases said they were seeing the same number of children and elderly during the cold spell as normal.

However, doctors advised people not to warm themselves up by using charcoal and coal stoves in small rooms.

They added that elderly people should not exercise too early in the morning or bathe and shampoo their hair at the same time.

Shops selling clothes, scarves and heating equipment, including electric blankets, heating fans and heating bags, are busier than normal along Bach Mai, Hue, and Hai Ba Trung streets, although their prices are 10-20 per cent higher than last year./.