By Nasir Mahmood
The death toll from a gas leak in Karachi’s Keamari locality has risen to 14 within last 48 hours. More than 300 people were affected due to the suspected gas leak including women and children as well. Deceased people’s families, on the other hand, did not permit for a post-mortem to be carried out either. Over 100 people were moved to Karachi’s public and private hospitals just last night over the concerning health disaster.
Muddassar A. Iqbal, World’s leading Maritime Expert talking to ‘The Monitor’ has urged Civil Institutions to ask the questions to Minister of Maritime Affairs on this sad day. Which Regulatory Body under the Maritime Affairs Ministry is equipped and trained enough to conduct the investigating this incident? Which statutory institution defines the safe working practices for Ports and Shipping? Which Regulator ensures compliance with those Safe Practices and the sequence of intervals for validations? Is this type of incident ever documented and have any protocols/ publications within (MoMA) Ministry of Maritime Affairs? Who is endorsed in providing training to port workers to keep themselves safe from such events and more importantly after the occurrence? The death toll from a gas leak in Karachi’s Keamari locality has risen to 14 within last 48 hours. More than 300 people were affected due to the suspected gas leak including women and children as well. Deceased people’s families, on the other hand, did not permit for a post-mortem to be carried out either. Over 100 people were moved to Karachi’s public and private hospitals just last night over the concerning health disaster.
Since the taking oath, which changes have been made by Ali Zaidi within Maritime Affairs Ministry Departments to prevent deadly incidents like this?
“Showing up the incident location without clearance by approved chemist, unfamiliar with safety gear in the absence of proper permits, unaware with exposure limits to unknown toxic gases, no education & training for such events is the reason the death toll further increased the following day. Pushing some tweets walking around the crime scene without knowing a thing will definitely not what a person with professional acumen could do”.… Muddassar Iqbal said.
Moreover, Ali Zaidi and his incompetent leadership team failed to produce New Maritime Policy, which he along with Rizwan Ahmed, Secretary Maritime Affairs, publically announced in September 2019. That should have indication to form required regulatory bodies and institutional development plans.
It may be mentioned here that before the Citizenship Portal account blocked in first quarter of last year, Muddassar had filed some very valuable suggestions to Prime Minister and concerned Departments to establish Maritime and Offshore Industry Regulatory Bodies, before starting Offshore Drilling to prevent Deep Water Horizon type International Disaster.
World’s leading Maritime Expert also raised a very serious question, in fact a suggestion, in September 2019 in a response to Maritime Minister’s press conference about New Maritime Policy. Muddassar had asked that “Do we have a National Regulatory Body for Maritime and Offshore Industry and why Pakistan is left out to have a Class Society? There was no response from anyone from Maritime Ministry, as of now.
Muddassar called this incident as “Deliberate Act” by the incompetent Maritime Affairs Minister and his team. Ali Zaidi and his selected Advisors in addition to state institutions heads should be held responsible and charged for the deaths of innocent port workers, he urged.
According to informed sources still the MoMA officials and KPT authorities had no idea from where the killer gas was coming. There is no regulatory authority to see such matters. Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) surveyors were also sleeping on this vital issue and had not produced any guidelines. If competent and trained enough, it should be their job to investigate and submit reports but there was no news from MMD. This incident has raised serious questions on functioning of MMD and competency of people employed by MMD.
On the other hand, Chairman KPT announced that there was no leak inside port while all the land and infrastructure adjacent to port belongs to KPT. There is no any Civil Maritime Regulatory Body in Pakistan to take care of these matters, the sources claimed.
They further informed that KPT is independent entity and does not allow anyone to investigate except armed forces. KPT’s Security Force is from Navy so even Police cannot enter the KPT premises to investigate that matter let aside the civil department.
Regarding gas issues, the sources said this may be happened from some vessel discharging grains at KPT. The substance used for fumigation to kill the micro insects within grains is Aluminum Phosphide. It comes in tablet form and also known as Silent Killer. This might be present in cargo being discharged or its remains being disposed off in open air, they guessed.
Why this is called a silent killer, because it is Odorless and heavier than air, settled in pockets and kills silently. They should check if some vessel was discharging grains in KPT, Keamari Area. If so then next step will be who had inspected the vessels and its cargoes before discharging? Is there any system and procedure placed for checking if cargo is safe to discharge at KPT that is very close to densely populated areas?
According to maritime experts it may be checked on web. Soyabean is always fumigated with Aluminum Phosphide, ventilated before discharge port and checked for safe level of poisonous gases before discharging. “I have firsthand and terrible experience at all” disclosed by an expert.
This could be the Soyabean Pallets for poultry and animal feed or Soyabean for extracting oil. Both posses similar risks, just ask one question, who had checked that cargo is safe for discharging at KPT and no Aluminum Phosphide was present in Soyabean? This will be enough, the experts added.
Other sources also claimed that fumigation went wrong on the PICT (Pakistan International Container Terminal). Highly toxic Methyl Bromide (Bromomethane) was used by the Port and Government Authorized departments and the approved third party. Studies in humans indicated that the lung may be severely injured by the acute (short-term) inhalation of methyl bromide. Acute and chronic (long-term) inhalation of methyl bromide can lead to neurological effects in humans.
Breathing high concentrations of methyl bromide may cause pulmonary edema, impairing respiratory function. Symptoms of acute exposure in humans include headaches, dizziness, fainting, apathy, weakness, confusion, speech impairment, visual effects, numbness, twitching, and tremors. In severe cases paralysis and convulsions are possible. Acute exposure may produce delayed effects.
Another possible cause could be H2S gas emission form Keamari tank farm area within KPT’s jurisdiction. With air blowing from sea toward city, these poisonous gases have drifted into population and city centre. Does anyone at Ministry of Maritime Affairs, care about public safety? Minister, Secretary MoMA, DG Ports & Shipping and Director Shipping, all are equally responsible to be blamed along with KPT that has no responsibility but photo and video sessions for twitter and social media.
All the possible reasons and facts lead us to one point, that is; why we pay high price for the incompetent Maritime Minister and his team, as they failed to introduce any Regulatory Body within Maritime Ministry? The analysts concluded.