RAHIM YAR KHAN, Jan 29: In what appears to be a glaring example of district administration’s apathy towards public health issues, some 121 people including students, teachers and other staff again fainted at Kotsamba Government Girls Higher Secondary School because of ‘chemical fumes’ here on Tuesday.
The incident occurred despite identification of the chemical (hydrogen sulphide) used by Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) contractor to check leakage because of which 70 students had fainted at the same school on Jan 24.
An FIR was also registered against a contractor and a sub engineer of the SNGPL, who were held responsible for the incident by a committee formed by the district coordination officer.
According to school Principal Shahnaz Fatma as soon as classes started at the school on Tuesday morning, a second-year student, Fauzia Lateef fainted. Soon after other students started fainting causing panic in the school, she added. Ms Shahnaz told Dawn telephonically that initially she got shifted the fainted students to Kotsamaba Rural Health Centre (RHC) and then called the Rescue 1122 teams from Rahim Yar Khan.
She said there was a strong smell of some chemical which could even be felt at upper storey of the school. The smell was different from the fumes which had caused the earlier incident, she said.
The principal said the house where the SNGPL contractor had stored the material related to a pipelines laying project was situated very close to the school.
The principal said such repeated incidents could disrupt the schedule for Class VI and Class VIII examinations beginning from Feb 1 and Feb 8, respectively.
Despite earlier incident, neither the district administration nor the police bothered to remove the hazardous chemical from the store located in a residential area. However, the rented house being used as store had been sealed on the orders of the DCO following the earlier incident.
The RHC in charge, Dr Zubair, said more than 65 students were brought to the centre and most of them were stable now.
Rescue 1122 ambulances shifted 56 other students to Sheikh Zayed Medical College Hospital (SZMCH), while 10 students were provided the first aid on the spot.
SNGPL RY Khan in charge Zia Haider Kazmi when contacted said the Kotsamba pipeline project was being looked after by Naeem Akhtar Watoo.
Mr Watoo could not be contacted as his cell phone was found ‘busy’ despite repeated attempts by this correspondent.
Later, DCO Nabeel Javed told a press conference that 117 students, 2 teachers, a school employee and a brother of a student were affected by ‘hazardous fumes’ on Tuesday.
He said that the patients were now out of danger.
The DCO said that after Jan 24 incident he had sent a request to SNGPL authorities asking them to make it binding for their field staff to take precautionary measures while handling chemicals during their projects.
He said both Punjab and district governments were “taking the matter seriously” and that “those responsible for the incident would not be spared”.
The DCO constituted another committee under additional registrar Syed Wajid Ali Shah to conduct another probe.
He said professors and chemical experts with “latest equipment” of Fauji Fertilizer and Fatma Fertilizer will also be involved in the investigation for their opinion.
He said academic activity at the school would remain suspended till the report of the committee while the arrangements of examinations would be made at an alternative place.