'Poisonous gas' kills 16 people in Karachi

Waqas Alam Angaria
An ambulance is in the queue. — Online/File
An ambulance is in the queue. — Online/File 

  • People in area face breathing difficulties due to air pollution, says DHO.
  • Oil, grease and crude iron factories operate in the area.
  • Deceased people were aged between 18 to 50.

KARACHI: As many as 16 people have passed away in the metropolis' Keamari neighbourhood within two weeks after purportedly inhaling "poisonous gas", officials said Thursday night.

Initial investigation has revealed that respiratory failure had occurred due to the presence of chemicals in the area, Director of Health Services Karachi Dr A Hameed Jumani said.

The latest incident of deaths from a purported poisonous gas leak occurred in Keamari's Ali Muhammad Goth, a slum not far from the city's Karachi Port.

In conversation with Geo News, District Health Officer (DHO) Keamari Dr Muhammad Arif said from January 10 to 25, the deaths of a number of people aged 18-50 were reported, however, none of the deceased was autopsied.

The officer also said that oil, grease, and crude iron factories operate in the area, which would likely be the reason behind the respiratory failure among the people, leading to their death.

The DHO added that "people in the area face breathing issues due to excessive air pollution and refrain from going to the nearby health care centres".

He also said that on January 6, two new factories — that extract iron from stones — were set up in the area.

Arif said that tomorrow (Friday), mobile medical units, including chest x-rays will be brought into the area. "The situation cannot be understood with the x-rays of merely 50 to 100 people."

Keamari Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mukhtiar Ali Abro told Geo News that after the news regarding the deaths was received in the area, a mobile lab and a team of doctors were dispatched.

The DC also said people who complained of fever and throat pain underwent x-rays and got their blood tests done. Later, their samples were sent to a laboratory.

"The deaths may be caused by the smoke and chemical in the small factories functioning in homes. An investigation is underway regarding the smoke and chemicals coming out of those factories," he added.

The Keamari DC further also said that the final cause of the deaths would be revealed after the lab reports adding that "three factories have been sealed and four people have been arrested today."

In response, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah took notice of the deaths and sought separate reports from the Karachi Commissioner and DG health and labour departments.

He also ordered the department of labour, department of industry, and district administration to conduct a complete investigation of the incident.

CM Shah asked the district administration about the factories releasing gases that are lethal for people. "Were these factories ever inspected?" he questioned.

The CM, seeking details regarding the actions taken after the incident, ordered the labour department to collect the samples of the gas and get them tested by a laboratory.

He showed his sympathy towards the families of the victims.