Keamari’s family lost 18 members in a fortnight
The past month has been nothing short of an ordeal for Ghulam Qadir, a resident of Ali Mohammad Goth (village) in Union Council-8 of Mawach Goth in Keamari District.
What started as a slowly suffocating air soon turned into a massive tragedy as member after member of his family, young and old, started falling sick with a mysterious illness.
He said it started with a high-grade fever, adding that the affected people soon started to complain of sore throats and shortness of breath.
From what the novel coronavirus pandemic has taught us over the past two years, one would have considered this a symptom of the potentially deadly virus.
But the way the illness took hold, causing sudden death of patients within just five to seven days, suggested that this was perhaps not Covid-19, which has already claimed thousands of lives in Pakistan.
All the deaths took place over 16 days, he said.
Qadir, though, was uniquely affected. Not only did he see almost all of his relatives get affected, but there also came a time when they would have to pick between preparing for a funeral and rushing another sick family member to the hospital.
“One nephew of mine, Khadim Hussain, lost his wife and four children,” he lamented, adding, “my entire family has fallen sick.”
He added that the mysterious illness had not spared the young nor the old, with the youngest around two years of age.
He accused the newly opened factories of being responsible for the toxic emissions that caused the deaths.
Meanwhile, sources in the immunization and health departments suggested that most children in the village are not vaccinated against diseases such as polio and other diseases such as measles.
What has made the task harder is that no dispensary or vaccination center is available in the village.
Tracing the cause
The district health and environmental authorities are still trying to ascertain just what exactly is causing the deaths.
While district officers say closing the factories on Thursday coincided with a break in the cycle of unexplained deaths in the locality, they are still waiting on the results of samples collected to be able to conclusively say what is causing the deaths.
However, they are of the view that the deaths were caused due to the severe damage caused to the lungs by toxic fumes in the air.
The village is not located too close to the major industrial area of Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE). Still, it falls within radius of two locations that showed up as a hotspot on NASA’s fire map, showing how it was sandwiched between hotspots.
Moreover, doctors who have visited the village thus far have ruled out a measles outbreak, given that none of the patients examined exhibited symptoms of the disease.