Cold and poverty kill 17 people in Nepal
by Kalpit Parajuli
The exceptionally bad weather and cold temperatures that began on 15 December have blocked roads and other ways of communications with ice and snow. In rural provinces, poor people have to choose to freeze to death in the fields or die from hunger in their homes.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The death toll from the cold snap that has gripped the southern Terai region since 15 December has reached 17. Located on the border with India, the area is considered one of the poorest in the country.

Local sources said that heavy snow falls have blocked all the roads and ways of communications, including air travel. Rescue operations in the hardest-hit mountain villages have been hampered. Hospitals are overflowing with people suffering from hyperthermia or broken bones from falling on ice.

Witnesses said that in some places temperatures dropped by 20 degrees in less than three hours, going from +20 º C down to the freezing point. In hilly and mountain regions, the mercury dropped to - 10 ºC, something exceptional in usually areas temperate.

To avoid further loss of life, the authorities have closed all local schools and urged people to stay indoors.

Harikrishna Adhikari, a senior provincial official in Siraha, said that the situation is severe in rural provinces where people live from farming or small-scale trading.

In view of the conditions, locals have asked for firewood as well as food. In fact, "We can't stay at home," one resident said, "because we have to go out to make a living or starve to death".

According to the latest forecast, the bad weather could last a few more days. Whilst waiting for the government to provide aid, various local Christian organisations like Caritas Nepal and World Vision Nepal have begun handing out blankets and heavy clothing to the poor.