Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

Paramedics personnel shift a patient on a stretcher into the hospital in Karachi on Feb. 18, 2020, after the gas leak killed 7 people and sickened dozens of others in a coastal residential area in Pakistan's port city of Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2020

Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

  • 14 people have died since Sunday night, 350 have been hospitalized
  • Pakistan State Oil temporarily closes its storage terminals in Kiamari

KARACHI: Authorities on Tuesday said that soybean dust was the likely cause of toxic gas that killed 14 and left over 300 others sick in Pakistan’s portside city of Karachi since Sunday night.
“Preliminary report has been submitted by experts at Khi (Karachi) Uni (university) which suggests that Kiamari incident happened due to over exposure of soybean dust which is known to have also caused similar incidents in other parts of the world,” Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson of the Sindh government tweeted late Tuesday.
“This soybean is in a shipment docked at Khi Port,” he added.
The report by the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), which was sent to Karachi’s commissioner and is available to Arab News, read that the deaths were caused soybean dust exposure.
“The symptoms due to exposure to soybean dust (aeroallergens) may be considered as the possible cause,” the report stated, urging bronchodilator and anti-histamine treatment for the patients and extreme care while uploading soybean containers.
The report said that soybean dust exposure-related epidemics have been reported in other parts of the world with associated morbidity and mortality.

Earlier, a government source told Arab News that the incident occurred during unloading of soybeans on Saturday evening at berth 12 of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) after MV Hercules arrived from the US. The unloading created dust which made its way toward Jackson area of Karachi’s Kiamari municipality.
According to sources, MV Hercules was fumigated on Jan. 8 at Cargill grain reserve Los Angeles, US after loading onboard with 56 degree aluminum phosphide “using one of approved methods.”
The breathing of aluminum phosphide can irritate the nose, throat and lungs causing coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath whereas repeated exposure may damage the lungs, kidneys and liver. Aluminum phosphide reacts with water or moisture to release highly toxic and flammable phosphine gas, the sources said, adding that “It is likely that exposure to particles of aluminum phosphide may have created problems for individuals passing by at that time and such unfortunate incident.”
Meanwhile, health officials said the death toll from the poisonous gas leak has reached 14.
“At least 14 people have died in four different hospitals of the city,” Dr. Zafar Mehdi, spokesperson of the health department said, adding that over 350 others have been impacted and needed treatment.
Officials at Ziauddin Hospital, where most of the affected persons were brought, said they received over a hundred patients on Sunday night, of whom four died.
“There was lull during the day and then again over a hundred visited the hospital, indicating that the gas impacts go high during humidity at night,” Amir Shehzad, spokesperson of the health facility, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) said his company had closed operations at Kiamari storage terminals.
“PSO has temporarily closed its storage terminals in the Kiamari, Karachi due to health and safety reasons. The operations on this location will resume as soon as the area is deemed safe for the company’s staff and contractors to operate.”
“There will be as such no impact of this temporary closure on supply of POL products within Karachi, and in upcountry locations. PSO has sufficient stock available, with backup supply arrangements already in place to ensure an uninterrupted supply of the POL products,” spokesperson told Arab News.


Official: 7 Pakistani kids killed when school roof collapses

Updated 46 min 27 sec ago

Official: 7 Pakistani kids killed when school roof collapses

  • All the children who lost their lives in the incidents were receiving Islamic education at the madrassa
  • Rains in Pakistan often damage homes and other structures due to poor construction quality

PESHAWAR: The roof of a school collapsed under heavy rain in Pakistan’s northwest near Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing seven children and injuring 13 others, police said.
Azam Khan, a local police official, said the incident took place in the district of North Waziristan. He said the children were between the ages of 4 and 14.
“Unfortunately, all the children who were martyred or injured in this incident were receiving Islamic education at the madrassa,” Khan said.
Rescue workers recovered the bodies and transported injured students to the area’s main hospital, he said.
Rains in Pakistan often damage homes and other structures because of poor construction quality and many homes are made of mud brick.
North Waziristan served as the headquarters of Pakistan’s Taliban and foreign militants until 2017 after security forces in a series of operations dismantled their network and killed or arrested scores of them.
The region has dozens of schools where children receive Islamic education.