KARACHI - The death toll from toxic gas leakage in Karachi’s Keamari area swelled to 14 on Tuesday as another five people expired in local hospitals.

Following the deaths, a large number of people took to streets and demanded answers from the government on the deaths caused by mysterious gas. More than 200 people have been hospitalised after being affected by the poisonous gas since Sunday

On the other hand, the cause of a toxic gas leak remained unclear as the provincial and federal governments have failed to determine the source of the gas leakage and its nature. The Sindh health department officials confirmed the death toll had risen to at least 14, two days after residents from adjoining areas rushed to hospitals complaining of breathing difficulties.

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On Tuesday, dozens of local residents gathered in Keamari’s Jackson Market and staged a strong protest demonstration, demanding the government to give an explanation over the tragedy.

Sindh Minister for Local Government Syed Nasir Hussain Shah while addressing a press conference along Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani said that “multiple theories” were being considered. “But, so far, the source of the gas and its nature is still unknown. He claimed that an investigation was still ongoing.

Provincial health department focal person Dr Zafar Mehdi confirmed that at least 14 people died due to toxic gas leakage in the locality. Out of the total deaths, nine people breathed their last at the Ziauddin Hospital, he said.

Dozens of other patients are undergoing intensive medical treatment, with many of them in critical condition, at various public hospitals in the port city. According to the hospital administration, the victims were experiencing respiratory problems, dizziness, vomits, and stomachaches. The hospitals were facing shortage of oxygen, while many patients were being shifted to other medical centers.

Meanwhile, officials belonging to federal and provincial departments visited the area to determine the exact location and cause of the leakage on Tuesday. A team of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency also visited the region and inspected tanker (ship) containing soybean oil.

Also, factories, companies, schools and colleges in Keamari were closed owing to poisonous gas leakage in the area. Residents appealed to the concerned authorities to take action and use preventive measures on a priority basis. Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had visited Ziauddin Hospital and Jinnah Hospital and inquired about the health of gas-affected persons. He also directed the administration to use all resources to provide best treatment to the patients.

Police to probe on toxic gas leak

The police department on Tuesday announced that a high-level investigation team would probe into toxic the gas leak incident. The inquiry committee will comprise police officers and officials from other law enforcement agencies, according to sources.

The officials also recorded statements of the people affected by the poisonous gas. The investigators also contacting the families of the deceased, an official said. The police are also collecting hospital record and statements of the affected people. The police also contacted the Karachi University and other departments seeking their advice over the matter.