Winter is in its infancy. Officially it starts from December but mercury is already under free-fall. Many places in Jammu and Kashmir record sub-zero temperature during the night and days have been colder compared to last year, apparently due to advanced snowfall over higher reaches.
The severe cold conditions prompt people to look for measures to ward off against it. This in turn invariably brings tragedies. As the saying goes, accidents do not just happen. They are caused. They are caused by the actions or inactions of one or more people. Circumstances like severe cold conditions should not add to causes but nevertheless they aid it.
Already there have been twin tragedies. A couple died of asphyxiation caused by gas-leak in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district earlier this month, according to officials.
Besides, many areas have experienced house fires since winter weather began. While inhabitants in most fires escaped unhurt, tragically two siblings of tender age were charred alive at Diver Kupwara.
It is also not the case that such tragedies occur once in a while but such incidents keep on happening recurrently. While people resort to traditional means to deal with sweeping wintry conditions, mainly emanating from snow-laden peaks, overall home heating has improved over the years. Nevertheless, tragedies like the one in Baramulla or Kupwara continue to befall. The threat of asphyxia is very high in the use of gas heaters. Several people have died while in sleep due to gas leakage or heaters burning off all oxygen in the room. The use of other heaters using wood, charcoal, or kerosene can bring more dangers if not used with caution.
Some of the heating devices cause toxic fumes, and burning charcoal indoors remains lethal given the amounts of carbon monoxide release.
Whether or not winter conditions contribute to the spate of fires that have struck the Valley recently is unclear in absence of substantive day. Also each case is different. Nonetheless the season does pose unique risks. In such a scenario people must take precautions that will reduce them.
It needs no special emphasis that the safety of instruments requires continuous watch, with no scope for waivers. There is a need to strengthen the 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.