Winter invariably brings lot of hardships for the people of Kashmir. The fight gets tougher in absence of paraphernalia including reliable electricity. This year’s unscheduled electricity cuts have also left hundreds of oxygen-dependent COVID-19 patients gasping. The weatherman has also predicted a rise in the frequency of cold waves this season. Put in other words, the winter is going to get harsher.
Apart from increasing the woes on a varied scale, the winter also brings tragedies. On the intervening night of November 28 and 29, a mother and her two minor daughters died purportedly due to suffocation in Uri in north Kashmir’s Baramulla while a Bukahri (wood burning heater) was lit in their room to protect against the chill. The pictures of a five-member family belonging to Kupwara district found dead in their rented accommodation in Mansoor Colony in Srinagar’s Bemina area in January last year still continues to haunt the memories of people. It is also not the case that these deaths occur once in a while but such incidents happen recurrently. It is also a fact that Home heating has improved over the past years. However, despite advancements, the tragedies like the one in Uri or Bemina continue to befall. The threat of asphyxia is very high in the use of gas heaters. Many people have died in sleep due to gas leakage or heater burning off all oxygen in the room. The use of other heaters using wood, charcoal, or kerosene can bring more dangers if not used judiciously.
Apart from death, skin dryness may compound by using heaters and blowers. It could also lead to eye and skin irritations. In the case of eyes it may then lead to conjunctivitis while the skin can become itchy and then develop an allergy, the experts have said.
Health experts also believe that number of death and complications can be avoided by making the public aware of the preventive measures. It needs no special emphasis that the safety of instruments requires continuous watch, with no scope for waivers. There is a need to strengthen approach to the public as well as occupational safety. The government needs to create awareness about the hazards as also the safety measures about the use of the various heating gadgets. Also, people need to be careful about using all types of heaters including the gas heater. People with heart disease, asthma or the elderly need to be more careful.