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RAHIM YAR KHAN, Jan 24: As many as 70 students of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Kot Samaba, and a teacher on Thursday fainted, apparently after inhaling some hazardous fumes, origin of which is yet to be ascertained.

Reports said as soon as the classes began at the school in the morning, the students started fainting. The school administration initially shifted some of the fainted girls to the Kot Samba Rural Health Centre (RHC).

However, when about 65 girls and teacher lost consciousness, the school administration called Rescue 1122 personnel, while the matter was also brought into the notice of District Coordination Officer Nabeel Javed who too reached the spot.

Rescue 1122 ambulances shifted 43 fainted girls and a teacher to Sheikh Zayed Medical College Hospital (SZMCH).

The doctors at the SZMCH treated the fainted girls and gave them oxygen to stabilise their condition.

Initially, the school administration, police and locals were of the view that the incident occurred when the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) released gas into the newly-installed pipelines adjacent to the school building.

However, the Rescue 1122 personnel involved in the operation claimed they found an empty bottle of a hazardous chemical used by SNGPL technicians lying in an adjacent building that was hired by the gas company.

The chemical is used to trace any gas leakage in the newly-installed pipelines.

According to Rescue 1122 spokesman Zahoor Ahmed fumes of the chemical affected the schoolgirls.

According to the press release issued by deputy director (information), due to the timely response of Rescue 1122 and RHC ambulances, lives of 42 schoolgirls and a teacher were saved by shifting them to the SZMCH.

All the affected people were said to be stable at the hospital. The DCO has formed a five-member committee comprising public health superintendent engineer Syed Abbas Raza, Assistant Commissioner Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, Rescue 1122 in charge Dr Abdul Sattar, environment DO Amir Irshad Rehmani and SNGPL Engineering wing in charge (development), Naeem Akhter Wattoo (who is also looking after the gas supply project at Kot Samaba), to probe into the incident. The committee will submit its report to the DCO Friday (today).

The DCO said in the press release that strict action should be taken against those responsible for the incident. Earlier, SNGPL Bahawalpur regional manager Sheikh Ikraam blamed the SNGPL staffers Zia Haider Kazmi and Naeem Akhtar Wattoo for the incident.

Mr Kazmi was not available for his version despite repeated calls made to his cell phone.

Mr Wattoo denied SNGPL had released gas in the newly-installed pipelines, alleging the incident occurred due to leakage of gases in the school’s science laboratory.

There were also unconfirmed reports of a clash between the locals, police and SNGPL officials.

Meanwhile, Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood has directed the SNGPL managing director to take action against those responsible for ‘gas leakage’ at Kot Samba school.