ISLAMABAD, Dec 15: The number of burn victims presenting at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has increased twofold because of unannounced gas loadshedding.
Officials and doctors at the Burn Centre of Pims told Dawn that they were struggling to cope with the increasing number of domestic burn cases coming mostly from Rawalipindi, Sargodha, Jhelum and Mianwali as well as D. I. Khan, Kohat, Bannu and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“We have a capacity of 20 beds but more than 33 patients are languishing in different corridors and vacant spaces of the Burn Centre, and are being treated by physicians on humanitarian grounds despite shortage of space,” said a Pims administration official.
“Seventy-five per cent of the patients suffered burns after domestic gas heaters blasts,” the official added.
With temperatures going down to minus four degree Celsius in the twin cities and adjoining rural areas, citizens have been forced to use gas heaters to keep their rooms warm.
A patient’s attendant at Pims Burn Centre told Dawn that eight of his family members were burnt badly in a gas heater blast in Rawalpindi.
“Everyone was sleeping in the room. Sometimes late at night, there was gas and electricity loadshedding and a child lit a candle.
Because the heater was still working, the gas caught fire and there was a major blast,” said the attendant not willing to share his name.
In another incident on Jan 12 in Shamsabad, Rawalpindi, four people died after gas leaked in the middle of the night after gas loadshedding.
A technical expert probing domestic blasts explained: “If the gas supply is terminated midway and resumed again for any appliance like a heater or a burner, it starts spreading in the room since it is not being used by the appliance.”
“If someone switches on any electrical device, which has a spark not visible to the naked eye, the gas in the room can catch fire,” he added.
A police official correlated gas loadshedding in the densely-populated suburbs with the high number of incidents reported from there.
“No major accident has been reported in Islamabad due to gas leaks this winter,” said the official.
The official insisted that the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) should raise more awareness among the domestic gas users about the measures needed to limit domestic burn tragedies which happen because of unannounced gas loadshedding.
When approached, the executive director for Pims, Prof Riaz Warraich, told Dawn: “We are aware that the number of patients with domestic burns have increased.
“We have no quick solution to the shortage of space but still we have decided to treat few of the patients in the general surgery ward,” he said.
He said domestic consumers should become more aware about preventive measures: they must close gas from the main lever not just from the heater’s gauge to avert such burning tragedies,” he advised.
Prof Warraich said domestic users specifically in rural parts of the city where gas loadshedding is common should use warm clothes at night rather than relying on heaters which are silent killers.
“Gas can stop coming without any signs. It is the responsibility of the local gas company to keep the consumers updated over the gas load shedding plan in any locality,” he added.
Despite multiple attempts no official of the SNGPL was available to comment on the matter.