Nepal has formed a five-member team to investigate and submit a report within 15 days into the death of eight Indian tourists, including four minors, who died in their room at a resort in the Himalayan country as the postmortem of the bodies was underway here on Wednesday.
Tragedy struck a group of 15 tourists from Kerala when eight of them died due to possible asphyxiation after they fell unconscious probably due to a gas leak from a heater in their room at a mountainous resort in Makwanpur district.
The tourists were airlifted to HAMS hospital in Kathmandu where they were pronounced dead on arrival. Makwanpur police said the victims might have fallen unconscious due to asphyxiation.
The Department of Tourism in a press statement said that a five-member committee has been formed to investigate if the resort was following the standards set by the government, myrepublica news portal reported.
The department has asked the committee to submit the investigation report within the next 15 days, it said.
"Postmortem of the bodies is underway at the Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu and they would be flown back home on Thursday," a senior official at the Indian Embassy told PTI on Wednesday.
The official said that out of the seven who survived, two stayed back to accompany the bodies while the others left.
The victims were identified as Praveen Krishnan Nair, Saranya Sasi, Sreebhadra Praveen, Aarcha Praveen, Abhinav Saranya Nair, Ranjith Kumar Adatholath Punathil, Indu Lakshmi Peethambaran Ragalatha and Vyshnav Ranjith.
The deceased -- two couples and four children -- were part of a group of 15 people travelling from Kerala to Pokhara, a popular mountainous tourist destination.
They were on their way back home and stayed at Everest Panorama Resort in Daman in the district on Monday night.
The official said that the Indian mission is in touch with the local authorities, family and friends of the deceased and the hospital authorities.
According to the manager at the resort, Shiva KC, the families arrived in a reserved vehicle and were supposed to stay in the resort for only one night.
He said that the guests stayed in a room and turned on a gas heater to keep themselves warm.
Although they had booked a total of four rooms, eight of them stayed in a room and remaining others in another room, the manager said, adding that all the windows and the door of the room were bolted from inside.
"They ordered snacks from the resort restaurant," the resort manager, Shiva KC, was quoted as saying by The Kathmandu Post.
After dinner at 10:30 pm, the guests of two cottages went to their rooms, while the others stayed back at the restaurant.
"In spite of our objection, they were constantly requesting to take the heater they were using in the restaurant to their rooms," the manager said.
Superintendent of Police Sushil Singh Rathore said that as the temperature was between three and six degrees, they had asked for a big gas heater.
As the hotel didn't have a big heater, the staffers brought it from elsewhere.
The heater was lit in their room at around 2 am, the myrepublica report quoted him as saying.
Shiva said that when the hotel staff knocked on the door at 8 am to serve them tea, there was no response.
The police said that the tragedy could have been averted if they had kept at least a door or a window open after operating the gas heater.
The resort is 75 kms away from Kathmandu. Most of the hotels in the locality do not have air-condition facility. The tragedy occurred as the two-decade old resort does not have air conditioners, Labsher Bista, the mayor of Thaha Municipality in the district, said.
The hotel entrepreneurs need to learn a lesson from this incident, he pointed out.
Nair and Ranjit, both IT professionals, were engineering college classmates and the tour was arranged after a get-together with old friends in Delhi, a family member said.
Nair, who hails from Chempazhanthi in Thiruvananthapuram, was an engineer in Dubai, while his wife, Saranya, was staying in Kochi along with 3 children and was a nursing student.
Ranjit was working in an IT firm at Thiruvananthapuram, while his wife, Indu, was an accountant in a cooperative bank at Kozhikode, a family member said.
Ranjit's elder son Madhav had a lucky escape as he was sleeping in another room.