–Shallwani sends report to CM Murad, says blood samples taken from victims contain traces of soybean dust
KARACHI: Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shallwani has urged the Sindh government to put an end to the unloading of soybeans at Karachi Port [in order to avoid such incidents in the future] in a report concerning alleged soybean poisoning that caused 14 deaths in the megacity.
Shallwani forwarded a report on the incident to Chief Minister of Murad Ali Shah on Thursday, in which he claimed that the situation in the city was under control and the administration was taking measures to contain the problem.
The report send by the commissioner to the CM was based on the findings of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). The ICCBS had forwarded the findings of the report to the commissioner.
It had revealed that “exposure to soybean dust” was causing severe respiratory problems for the locals of Kemari, an area of Karachi.
The report had suggested giving bronchodilators and antihistamines to the patients admitted in the hospitals. It had also recommended the local authorities to take extreme care during the unloading of soybean containers from now on.
“Kindly note that soybean dust exposure related epidemics have been reported earlier from other parts of the world with associated morbidity and mortality,” the report had stated.
Meanwhile, Ships Agents Association strongly denied reports of dangerous gas emissions from soybean and said that soybean is not related to chemicals as it is an agricultural product. Soybean is being handled at the port without any damage for years and no one from the workers on the ship got affected by it, the association said.
On the other hand, the Sindh government issued an advisory according to which, the soybean dust causes itching in the mouth, eczema, throat inflammation and choked breathing.
HANDLING OF SOYBEAN:
While soybean handling is not new to Pakistani ports, it is believed that the specific procedure and SOP for carriage, loading, and unloading were not carried out as outlined. Negligence in this regard can be attributed to the regulator and Karachi Port Trust. This suggests that there may have been a breach of protocol and thereby negligence that has resulted in a deadly gas leak.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, a citizen working in the vicinity said, “The area smells acidic and from what I have heard soybean does not smell like acid.” Residents claim the smell was more along the lines of a strong acid or chemical bearing resemblance to a drain opener.
As per protocol, tankers are washed before and after unloading. Oil-water separators are used to prevent oily residue from mixing with water, whereby the residue is then collected in a sludge tank to be later disposed of by shore facilities following which the water is drained.
It is believed that the process was not carried out diligently and water has flown directly into sewerage lines and has mixed with the toxic gases there to become deadly.
HYDROGEN SULPHIDE, NITRIC OXIDE FOUND IN KEMARI:
On Tuesday, a private laboratory monitoring air quality in the area over the past two days had found the air to be extremely polluted. However, the levels of pollutants — particularly two harmful gases which should not be present in the air at all — did not cross the limit where it could endanger life.
These areas included Bhutta village, Railway Colony, Jackson bazaar and Massan Road.
“The levels of all pollutants, particularly the hazardous hydrogen sulphide and nitric oxide gases, were found to be very high late Monday night near the Ziauddin Hospital when reports of more people being affected by the toxic gas leak emerged,” an official of the Global Environmental Laboratory (GEL) had said on the condition of anonymity.
“Harmful gases such as hydrogen sulphide and nitric oxide shouldn’t be present in healthy air at all,” he had said.
“But, the levels of these gases didn’t reach the limit where they could endanger life, though they would have long term impact on health depending upon the extent and duration of exposure. The level of these gases was also high on Monday afternoon when we started monitoring air quality,” the official had added.