Alarm raised after 19 die in 2 weeks in Kemari due to toxic industrial emissions
Health authorities in the district of Kemari have been put on alert after 19 people reportedly died in the past two weeks due to suspicious respiratory tract infections.
Doctors now intend to go into the affected locality with portable scanners to get a better idea of what is afflicting the people there.
Localities in the coastal Kemari district, including Ali Mohammad Goth and Mawach Goth – where scores of working-class families live and work in the nearby port loading and industrial sectors of Karachi, have been reporting a spate of deaths recently aggravated by a mysterious respiratory tract infection.
Among those who perished, 16 were children. At the same time, four members of a family also passed due to the mysterious disease, locals say.
They added that currently, some 30-35 children are suffering from the mystery illness.
The district authorities are still trying to ascertain the exact illness and its cause. Still, they suspect that the deaths were caused by emissions from illegal factories which have sprung up in the area over the past couple of weeks.
What do doctors say
Kemari District Health Officer Dr Arif Rehman on Thursday said that at least two of the children who died were confirmed to have died from measles.
However, he said they have been unable to identify the causes of deaths in Ali Mohammad Laghari Goth.
“We have taken samples of mucus and sputum and have set up a health camp in the area and deputed a doctor there,” he said, adding that their health teams are in the affected area.
“Tomorrow, we will take portable x-ray machines to the area to scan affected patients,” he said.
Asked about the deaths of children, he said that it is not just children but adults who have suffered as well.
It was his view that toxic emissions from illegal factories operating nearby were the cause of the deaths.
“Today, action was taken against factories, which is why no deaths were reported from these areas today,” he claimed.
Health dept seeks support from environment body
Meanwhile, the DHO has sought support from the provincial Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development Department of the Sindh government.
Dr Rehman wrote to the environment department’s director general on Thursday seeking ‘most urgent’ support.
In the letter, Dr Rehman stated that the matter was of ‘urgent priority’ and pointed to how he was notified of some deaths relating to ‘suspicious respiratory tract infection’ related diseases in Ali Mohammad Goth and Mawach Goth of the district.
“When we sent our surveillance team for further investigation, they found few factories emitting noxious gasses, and these deaths have occurred after a week of these factories opening, which are likely to be the cause of these respiratory tract illnesses and deaths in this locality,” he wrote, adding that his surveillance teams are still investigating the matter.
He urged the environment office to provide technical assistance to the district health office to ascertain the cause and order the concerned authorities to force these factories to cease their operations immediately so that the inciting agent could be drawn under control.