No headway in Keamari gas leak incident as probe body meets

Updated 26 Feb 2020

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Commissioner is informed that situation is normal in the affected area. — Dawn/File
Commissioner is informed that situation is normal in the affected area. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: A committee tasked with conducting a thorough inquiry into the recent suspected Keamari gas leakage incident was informed on Tuesday that the situation had become normal in the congested neighbourhood as hospitals were not receiving any patients from the area.

“The situation is normal in the area since last week when patients of the gas leak were brought to hospitals,” an official at the Karachi commissioner’s office said.

Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani chaired a meeting of the probe body at his office where representatives of agencies concerned updated him about the situation.

Officials said the committee had formally started investigations to find out the causes and reasons of the incident.

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by director general of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency Naeem Ahmed Mughal, Col Mohammad Nasir of Corps V, SP-investigation Mukhtiar Khaskheli, Dr Shakil Ahmed of the HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, Karachi University, assistant commissioner-harbour Rahim Qureshi, senior officials of the Karachi Port Trust, including traffic manager, operation manager, and marine pollution control department’s representative.

Commissioner is informed that situation is normal in the affected area

The officials said the representatives of the organisations and departments concerned briefed the commissioner about the incident in detail that included the details coming to the fore during the preliminary investigation.

Rashid Usmani, the director of the Enviro-Maritime Capacity Building Institute and a visiting professor of Pakistan Marine Academy, also attended the meeting and gave his opinion and expert advice.

The officials of KPT, police and district administration told the meeting that the situation was “now normal as no case of any person falling ill because of the allergic gases in the air or such related complaints were brought into their knowledge”.

Officials in the commissioner’s office said the meeting discussed all aspects involving the reasons relating to the incident threadbare and decided to carry out investigations based on facts and to follow the scientific methods with the support of experts and individuals and organisations including the HEJ, KPT, Sepa, police and city administration, etc.

They said all aspects of the incident had been discussed.

The inquiry would establish the exact cause of the incident in which, according to the Sindh health ministry, 14 people died and more than 250 people fell ill.

Health Minister Azra Pechuho had earlier cited a report of the Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) suggesting that “the exposure to soya bean dust” might be the cause of breathing difficulties faced by residents of Keamari.

ICCBS officials said the lab had examined blood and urine samples of people “exposed to toxic aerosols” as well as soya bean dust samples.

“Currently we are extensively engaged in deciphering the cause of this toxic exposure. While we are working on this complex bio-analytical problem, we think this may be due to overexposure to soya bean dust,” a letter by the KU’s facility earlier sent to the commissioner had said.

The participants at the meeting at the commissioner’s office agreed to investigate the facts in the first phase to ascertain the root cause and determine the reasons for the incident that occurred on Feb 16 and continued to affect people for the next two days.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020