Three booked for death of 18 kids

From Zeeshan Mirza

KARACHI: Police on Sunday booked three factory owners on charges of manslaughter and negligence after 18 people, including 16 children, died over the past few weeks from inhaling “toxic fumes” in Karachi’s Keamari district.
Over the past few days, 18 people have reportedly died in the neighbour-hood due to inhaling mysterious toxic gases emitting from factories func-tioning in residential areas.
Officials from the Sindh health department earlier said the deaths took place over a period of two weeks — between Jan 10 and 25 — in Ali Mu-hammad Goth and Mowach Goth.
Mochko Station House Officer (SHO) Chaudhry Shahid told media that a first information report (FIR) had been registered against three factory owners.
He said that the case was registered on the complaint of a citizen who had lost four family members while living in Ali Mohammed Goth, located on Suparco Road near Mowach Goth.
“Among the three nominated suspects, only one has been arrested so far,” the officer said. The FIR was registered under Sections 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab), 284 (negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance) and 34 (acts done by several persons In furtherance of com-mon intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Khadim Husain, the complainant, said that he lived in Ali Mohammed Goth along with his family. He said that several factories for recycling goods in large quantities had been established in the area.
He said that the owners had not taken any safety measures, which caused hazardous smoke and a foul smell to permeate the area.
The complainant said his wife Razia and their three children — 18-year-old Shoaib, 4-year-old Shahid and 1-year-old Haleema — fell ill between Jan 12 and Jan 21, before all four succumbed to the illness.
The complainant highlighted other children had also died due to the “haz-ardous smoke, smell and dust” in his neighbourhood but were buried without conducting any legal proceedings or informing the police.
Sindh health authorities hinted on Saturday that they could not “exclude measles virus as a risk factor of outbreak”, but remained cautious about jumping to conclusions before “confirmation of blood sample” reports.
In a fresh report sharing the initial findings of the investigation into the in-cident, the authorities mentioned the objective of the exercise as to identify cases, determine the magnitude, find out associated risk factors of the cas-es and deaths, and their source.
“Some 40 people or 81 per cent of the infected people were in the age group of less than 11 years,” the report said.
“All were unvaccinated against routine [immunisations] and measles. Dur-ing active search in the community team observed cases of suspected mea-sles. Some chance of infected person cannot be excluded due to incubation period. So on the basis of above-findings we cannot exclude the measles vi-rus as a risk factor of outbreak until the confirmation of blood samples,” the report stated.
It referred to the observations of the health department team, which no-ticed/ observed “a very foul smell in the affected area during the visit on dated Jan 26, 2023”.
All infected cases and deaths were living, it said, in the surrounding area of the factory at an approximate distance of 10-20 feet, which was identified using rubber, plastic, stone, powder and oil.
“According to residents of the affected area a sudden surge of shortness of breath cases surfaced after the start of the factory from Jan 5, 2023,” it said.
“Some 26 [affected] people or 53 per cent [of] cases are living in six fami-lies. After the closing of factories on Jan 26, 2023 team and residents ob-served an absence of foul smell in the infected area during a visit on Jan 27, 2023. So on the basis of above findings, more cases and deaths were reported where factories are present,” the report said.