Five members of a family including two children who died in Srinagar while they were asleep due to inhaling toxic gasTwiter/ Rifat Abdullah

Five members of a family including two children, aged eight and five years, died inside their rented accommodation in the outskirts of Srinagar, reportedly due to inhaling fumes of toxic gas from the LPG heater they were using (asphyxiation or asphyxia).

Khurshid Ahmad(45), a former soldier hailing from the border area of Tangdhar in Kupwara district of North  Kashmir had come to Srinagar for the medical treatment of his mother at Shere-e Kashmir Medical Institute of Sciences Medical College (SKIMS). His wife Gulshan Jan, mother  Reshma Jan and his two sons Faizan and Furquan were accompanying him. They had rented a home in the Boat Colony, Bemina close to the hospital, according to a J&K police official.

On the morning of January 5, locals found their dead bodies inside the room and it appeared that all of them choked to death while inhaling the toxic gas from the heater.

The police said that although the bodies were sent for autopsy to ascertain the death causes, the deaths apparently occurred due to asphyxia. The bodies are being flown from the Police Control Room in Srinagar to their native village in Tangdhar. 

The incident occurred at a time when the Kashmir valley is cut off from the rest of the world after the fresh spell of, what is believed to be, the heaviest snowfall of the snow The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, the air traffic connectivity and power supplies have remained affected after Friday's snowfall. However, the night temperatures have improved according to the Met Department.

A similar incident was reported in December when two workers of an eatery outlet died due to suffocation while inhaling gas from the LPG heater in Srinagar.

The usage of electric and LPG heaters and water geysers is pretty common in the valley during winters when it reels under sub-zero temperatures.

In absence of electricity supply, the charcoal and LPG heaters have come in handy. However, doctors have cautioned against their excessive use. 

What is Asphyxia or asphyxiation?

Asphyxia or asphyxiation, in literal terms, means choking because of the inability of an individual to inhale sufficient oxygen and could either lead to coma or cause death, if it extends for a considerable period of time.

People with acute respiratory distress often suffer from asphyxiation, however under certain environmental conditions, especially when there are high carbon monoxide emissions, even normal people can be choked to death.

Since carbon monoxide can readily mix with haemoglobin as compared, once inhaled it prevents the transport of oxygen to the organs and tissues of the body, leading to death.

The Doctors Association of Kashmir has issued an advisory cautioning to the people against the use of unvented heaters where there is no outlet for the emission of residual gases.  The people should instead switch to vented gas heaters which have a proper oulet for he exhaustion of gas emissions such as carbon monoxide.

At most, their use should be restricted to several hours in a day but not overnight, the doctors added.

According to the doctors, carbon monixide poisoning is a silent killer since there are no tell-tale signs, especially if the people inhale gas while they are sleeping. Over-exposure to carbon monoxide may cause symptoms such as gasping for breath, feeling weak, tiredness, nausea, diziness and muscle weakness.