The source of a toxic gas leak in Karachi’s Kemari area remained unclear recently as official confirmed the death toll had risen to at least 11, two days after residents from adjoining areas rushed to hospitals complaining of breathing difficulties.
Addressing a press conference along with Sindh Minister for Local Government Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani said multiple theories were being considered but thus far the source of the gas and what its nature was still unknown. He added that an investigation was still ongoing.
According to the police, two other deaths were reported at Kutiyana Hospital.
Dozens of others have been hospitalised in various medical facilities across the city with officials confirming that over 250 individuals were discharged after treatment.
Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali that the hospital had received 27 patients, all from the Kemari area.
Jamali said that one of the patients had acute exasperation asthmatic attacks and was in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU). She added that the remaining 26 patients had been discharged after three to four hours. According to Jamali, the patients all came from a specific area in Jackson Bazaar near a mosque and behind the railways line.
Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had ordered the evacuation of residents from the affected areas, regretting that the “bad smell” was not receding and people were still being affected.
Karachi Commissioner Shallwani said the incident was a “localised event”.
Earlier, Shallwani had informed a Sindh cabinet meeting that a ship that was offloading soybean or a similar substance could be the probable cause of the toxic gas.
“When offloading from this ship is halted, the smell too diminishes,” he reasoned.
At this, CM Shah directed to check the particular container on the ship. The commissioner responded that offloading from the ship had already been stopped.
However, when contacted, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi told local reporters that reports that of the gas emanating from a soybean ship was “absolute rubbish” as the crew and the vessel were fine.
He said he had personally visited the port and the hospital. Zaidi said that it was interesting the gas could only be smelt at night. He reiterated that nothing was happening at the port.
An initial investigation into the incident by Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) showed that toxic gas had leaked from the terminal/s storing crude oil and petroleum products located within the residential areas.