Kemari’s toxic gas: Authorities spring into action

Several factories sealed, medical camps set up, samples taken
<p>This is an illustrative image created using artificial intelligence and is not representative of the locality where the deaths occurred. PHOTO: SAMAA TV</p>

This is an illustrative image created using artificial intelligence and is not representative of the locality where the deaths occurred. PHOTO: SAMAA TV

As the district and provincial health authorities try to ascertain the root cause of over a dozen deaths in a small semi-urban, residential and industrial locality of Ali Mohammad Goth in the Keamari District of Karachi, locals and doctors disclosed the symptoms displayed by the victims and the time between when the symptoms emerged, and the victims passed away.

It is believed that some of the factories were smelting iron ore to turn them into iron, releasing toxic fumes into the air and causing deaths.

Keamari District Disease Surveillance and Response Units (DDSRU) Focal Person Dr Abdul Wahab, in a communique, stated that around 18 people had mysteriously died in Ali Muhammad Goth, in Mawach Goth UC 8, of Keamari District between January 10, 2023, to January 25, 2023.

Dr Wahab said that their investigation found that the victims included people of all ages, though predominantly they included children.


Of symptoms, Dr Wahab said that the victims had all shown initial symptoms of suffering from fever, sore throat and shortness of breath, followed by death within five to seven days from the onset of illness.

However, he added that on examination of symptomatic patients, no rashes or conjunctivitis were present.

However, those who visited the locality and residents reported the presence of a severe irritating smell in the environment.

Dr Wahab, in his report, noted that locals claim two factories were constructed within their village from where a very foul smell was emanating, creating a suffocating environment.

It is also causing severe irritation in the throats of residents.

When SAMAA TV visited the village on Thursday, the crew had to wear N-95 facemasks to be able to breathe in the locality with thick, acrid smoke in the air.

“As per initial investigations, the cause of these deaths are some chemicals which are developing interstitial lung disease,” Dr Wahab stated in his communique.

A physical inspection of the area, the victims and the patients showed no visible manifestation of measles on any of the victims.

Currently, some 30-35 children in the area suffer from symptoms.

In response, Dr Wahaba and DHO Dr Arif Rehman stated that they are setting up medical camps to treat pneumonia in the affected area as further investigations remain under process.

Medical camps set up

On Friday, the DHO deployed a mobile x-ray machine apart from a fully stocked dispensary van and a doctor in the locality to help locals.

Moreover, the medical staff is collecting samples from the locals to run tests and ascertain the exact cause of their affliction.

Ali Mohammad Goth lacks a basic health unit and a dispensary to source basic medical care.

Meanwhile, Karachi Health Director Dr Abdul Hameed Jumani and DHO Dr Rehman, visited the village on Friday.

Dr Jumani said they had conducted x-rays of 26 affected children from the village as they attempted to trace the cause of the mysterious deaths.

“It appears that the deaths were caused by chemicals [fumes],” he said.

On the possibility of measles causing the death, given that sources had disclosed there was lax vaccination of children in the area, Dr Jumani said that the inspection of children did not show if the children had visible symptoms of the disease, adding that measles also does not cause sudden deaths.

“There is little chance of measles given the children have received booster doses,” he said, adding that other protective vaccines have also been administered.

“We have written to the department of environment to take action against the factories,” he said, adding that the staff of the factories has fled.

Action against polluting factories

After people complained of over a dozen deaths in as many days, the district administration and environment agencies sealed three factories in the area, which were believed to be burning garbage.

In the area around Ali Mohammad Goth, there are several brick-manufacturing factories and other industrial units.

 One of the factories sealed by the district administration. PHOTO: SAMAA TV
One of the factories sealed by the district administration. PHOTO: SAMAA TV

Accompanying police arrested at least four people as well.

Another three factories in the area are expected to be sealed today.

Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Deputy Director Munir Ahmed Abbasi also visited the site on Friday and said that they have taken samples from the air and will be able to report on what is found within 24 hours.

Abbasi said it was illegal to construct and operate factories in residential areas and that it was the district administration’s job to take action against the polluting factories.

Keamari toxic gas

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