Toxic chemicals allegedly kill 18 people in Pakistan’s Karachi

At least 18 people, most of them children, die within 16 days as residents report foul smell from two factories.

Pakistan police
Officials said those who died suffered from fever, sore throat and shortness of breath [File: Rizwan Tabassum/AFP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 18 people have died in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi in the past 16 days, allegedly due to toxic chemicals from factories in the area.

A statement from the Health Department of Sindh province on Thursday confirmed the deaths in the Ali Muhammad Goth neighbourhood in Karachi’s Keamari district from January 10 to January 26.

“As per initial investigation the cause of these deaths are some chemicals which caused some interstitial lung disease,” the statement said. “Medical camps for the treatment of pneumonia have also been established in affected area. Further investigations are under process.”

According to residents, a foul smell had come from two factories in their village, causing suffocation, the Health Department said.

Department spokeswoman Mehar Khursheed said those who died suffered from fever, sore throat and shortness of breath.

“Within five to seven days of onset of illness, death occurred,” she told Al Jazeera. “On examination of symptomatic patients, they do not show any rashes. Conjunctivitis was present although community is concerned with severe irritating smell in environment.”

Hafeez Leghari, a resident of Ali Muhammad Goth, told Al Jazeera that three adults were among the dead, and the rest were children ages one to 13.

“The government has sealed the factories in the areas which were giving away the fumes, and officials are here for further meetings with people in the area and for investigations,” Leghari said.

Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of the province, issued a statement expressing his sorrow about the deaths and instructing authorities to conduct an inquiry.

Source: Al Jazeera