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Is Pakistani government trying to cover up the Karachi gas leak disaster?

A recent gas spill in the Keamari Area of Karachi has led to more than 14 deaths and has affected around 300 people. The people who got affected included children and women as well. However, the lack of media attention has led many people to believe that the government is trying to cover something up.

According to the spokesperson who announced this horrific news, the gas has not been identified yet, however, it’s presumed to be hydrogen sulfide – “a highly poisonous gas that is a byproduct of crude oil and also generated in the sewerage system.” As for the families of the deceased, they haven’t allowed a post-mortem to be carried out, hindering the confirmation of the identity of the gas.

The gas spread rapidly, poisoning around 100 people, who were immediately transferred to public and private hospitals in Karachi, in just one night. The major hospitals included Ziauddin Hospital, Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Hospital, Dr. Ruth K. M. Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Kutiyana Memon Hospital, and Burhani Hospital.

Specialists and doctors at these hospitals clarified that patients had griped of breathing issues, respiratory issues, stomach hurt, burning sensation in eyes, and discomfort in the chest.

A medical report of 14 individuals influenced by the presumed gas spill was enlisted while samples were additionally gotten from them. Further, the police specialist’s office has submitted 16 examples to the substance analyst. The report is due tomorrow.

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The crisis led to a lot of unrest in the city and many came out on the streets to protest against the rising death toll and lack of media attention to the issue. The protestors, which mostly belonged to the Keamari area, sat on the main roads of the city causing a major traffic jam.

According to Muhammad Asif Khan, Vice Chairperson of Traders Association, “there had been no satisfactory efforts to ascertain the cause of and prevent further deaths from the alleged gas leak despite the incident being reported first some 48 hours ago.”

The poisoning majorly affected the business and the education industry. Several private and public schools were closed, and many parents refused to send their children to schools which remained open. Similarly, many shopkeepers had to close down their shops – to either join the protest or go home. People were also seen wearing protective N-95 face masks.

A mass evacuation of the area is still not confirmed yet. According to Murtaza Wahab, Sindh Environment Advisor, the cause of the crisis is still unknown. He continued, “Hydrogen sulfide could be the probable cause of gas poisoning in Keamari area adjacent to Karachi port where some have unfortunately died, and dozens were hospitalized on Sunday night. So far, our investigation is inconclusive, but our teams are working on it and we have also sought professional assistance from a private firm to help in the investigation.”

It is presumed that the gas originated from a ship that accidentally severed a pipe while docking. However, no official statement has been released yet.

Back in November 2019, a tweet circulated the internet about the possibility of such disaster in Karachi, however, no media attention was given to it. The tweet highlighted an excerpt from a local newspaper and said, “these massive ships holding around 48 THOUSAND tonnes of petroleum coke, are coming into Karachi port, and their boarding lodging will release this substance into the sea”.

 

Many believe that the leak was a result of mismanagement and lack of screening on behalf of the government. The limited media coverage further proves the theory that the government might be trying to hide something.

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Mariyam Tanveer

Recently graduated from LUMS, I now work as Researcher and a Freelance Writer on Ask Health News

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