Unusual cold spell in Nepal reported claimed nearly 100 lives

KATHMANDU, Jan 14 – Nearly 100 people died in southern Nepal due to biting cold in the last fortnight. Mostly, the old and poor people who had no clothes to keep them warm in the freezing cold lost their lives.

Normal life was badly affected when the mercury dropped to record low in many places and the thick fog covered the entire sky for days.

The temperature in Nepalgunj, a city bordering India, in western Nepal posted the lowest temperature at minus 0.2 degree Celsius in the recorded history while it dipped below 1 degree Celsius for the first time in Birendra Nagar and Dipayal, the two key towns of western Nepal.

However, most death reports came from eastern Terai with Saptari (21) and Mahottari (32) having the highest deaths where the average minimum temperature was measured 7 degree Celsius.

Most schools remained closed in the eastern and central Terai owing to the cold for a week.

As the climate in this southern belt is often hot, people here hardly buy warm clothes. Also many poor cannot buy them. Consequently, the death toll has been increasing every winter in this region.

However, the Home Ministry Officials refuted the number of deaths reported in media.

“Only eight to ten people have died of cold this season so far but every death of the season has been reported to be cold-induced with the hope of receiving relief from the state,” said an official at the home ministry under the condition of anonymity.

We are trying to ascertain the actual number of deaths caused by cold, he added.

Police have managed firewood for the affected people in many places.

Even in Kathmandu, the mercury dipped to minus 2 degree Celsius last week, the lowest in 12 years. However, no death was reported from the hilly areas, thanks to the warm sun. Unlike in the southern plain, the sky in the hills and mountains remained clear and the people could bask in the sun during the day time.

Although the temperature dropped up to minus 10 in some towns, no one died in the hilly area. However, the frost on the road caused a fatal accident in the western hill in which 31 passengers died in a bus accident Saturday morning.

With shivering cold, the number of heart and asthma patients increased in hospitals of Kathmandu, said doctors.

Almost all hospitals saw an increasing flow of patients suffering from diarrhea, common cold, cough and asthma this season.

Northern part of India adjoining Nepal was also badly affected by the cold with several reported deaths.

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