This is a cold-cold Nepali winter, with chilly days forecast well into the next few weeks. Sporadic deaths have been reported from the Tarai as those without concrete homes struggle to keep warm. In fact, this is a tragic yearly occurrence. This winter, eight people have lost their lives, en masse, for a different reason. To fight the cold, they had locked themselves into a room with a gas-heater on. The eight Indian nationals, including four minors, who were staying at a resort in Daman, Makawanpur, reportedly asphyxiated to their deaths.
Common sense would dictate that you never go to sleep with a heater on and all the doors and windows shut. In fact, the Indian tourists had no intent of doing so. But when the little children could not sleep because of the biting cold, they were forced to ask the hotel for a gas heater. Although they had booked four rooms, 15 people of the touring party had all huddled into two to keep themselves warm. But why weren’t there enough heating arrangements in a hotel at one of the coldest holiday destinations in Nepal?
This isn’t the first time foreign tourists have died from asphyxiation in Nepali hotel rooms. In December 2013, two Chinese tourists passed away in a hotel room in another popular tourist destination of Nagarkot on the outskirts of Kathmandu. A suspected cause was leakage of gas from a bathroom heater. Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism has set up a probe committee to find out whether there was any negligence on the part of the Daman resort owners where the eight Indians died.
In fact, this should be a wake-up call. A minimum requirement of warm blankets and (working) air-conditioners or some other heating alternatives should be mandatory for all hotels. Apparently, the electric blankets in the resort in Daman had failed to warm, whereupon the tourist party had to ask for a ‘big heater’. There can hardly be a frequent traveler inside Nepal who has not had to put up in cold and dank hotel rooms with filthy bedsheets and blankets. As more and more tourists are coming to Nepal, there is a risk of the hotels and resorts cutting corners to adjust more guests, often by compromising on safety and sanitation. Let this Visit Nepal Year also be the year that our hotels and guesthouses were made safe for all travelers, in all seasons.