City News

Four die in five days as ‘poisonous gas’ revisits Keamari

At least four people have died while 18 were hospitalised due to severe poisoning and allergic reactions in two separate incidents of suspected gas poisoning in the Keamari area of the city in last five days, health officials said on Wednesday.

“The latest incident of suspected gas poisoning or severe allergic reaction occurred yesterday (Tuesday) night when 13 people were brought to Dr Ziauddin Keamari Hospital with severe difficulty in breathing. Two of them died during treatment while one person was brought dead at the health facility. The remaining 11 were given treatment in the emergency room and some even requiring intensive care,” said Dr Asim Hussain, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Dr Ziaiuddin Hospitals told The News on Wednesday.

He added that a similar incident had taken place last Friday, December 18, when around nine people were brought to Dr Ziauddin Keamari Hospital with extreme difficulties in breathing and one was declared dead on arrival who had probably died on his way to the hospital.

“The condition of patients in these two incidents in last five days was identical to the patients who were brought to the health facility earlier this year on February 18 and 19, 2020. Around 14 people had died in that incident of suspected gas poisoning or allergic reactions,” Dr Asim explained.

Fear and panic gripped the densely-populated Keamari neighbourhood along the Karachi port on Wednesday as the Ziauddin Hospital, which handled most of the victims of the Friday’s episode, remained overcrowded with relatives of people under treatment at the health facility.

Many said they had shifted their families to other areas of the city after four deaths in last five days due to poisonous gas.

“Although none of my family members got sick with the latest incident of gas poisoning but we were feeling strange smell, difficulty in breathing and itching in the eyes for last few days. In order to prevent my family members, including the parents and children, I have moved them to Lyari with my relatives,” Atif Khan, a resident of Keamari, told The News.

The Sindh health department officials said they had received information regarding the deaths due to suspected gas poisoning in Keamari and their experts had initiated investigations by visiting public and private health facilities, talking to affected people and the district health administration.

Confusion still prevails over the February 2020 Keamari incident as the federal and provincial authorities preferred to blame each other for the incident without ascertaining the cause of poisoning.

A report of Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) had suspected that ‘soya bean dust (aeroallergens)’ might have caused the deaths in February; however, the claim was widely ruled out by other experts and the authorities themselves.

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