ISLAMABAD - Ministry of Maritime Affairs has decided to further reform the protocols relating to handling of hazardous materials at country’s ports, sources said on Wednesday.    The move comes after 14 people from different areas of Keamari, Karachi have died and over 400 have been taken to different hospitals for treatment reportedly after inhaling toxic gas suspected to have leaked from shipping containers stuffed with soybean at Karachi port.

 However, the port authority and Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi have such reports.      An investigation committee has already been formed to probe the matter during a high-level meeting, co-chaired by Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi and Provincial Minister for Local Government Sindh Nasir Hussain Shah at Karachi on Tuesday. The Jackson police Karachi have registered a case on the matter against unidentified persons on behalf of the state on Monday.  The case was filed under Sections 322, 284 and 337-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, pertaining to unintentional murder and negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substances. In a related development, a spokesperson of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) has said that plans were afoot to shift a ship carrying a soybean from Karachi Port to Port Qasim in a bid to prevent residents of Karachi’s Keamari area from further exposure to soybean dust believed to a cause for breathing difficulties. The KPT spokesperson said authorities had decided to move the ship during the morning but decided against it due to the low tide. “Currently, preparations are underway to shift the ship later in the day, during high tide,” he said, adding that the container should be moved by 8pm.

“From Tuesday morning till late night on Wednesday, approximately 90 people were affected but none of them were serious,” he maintained, adding that the situation was now subsiding.

A letter sent to Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani by the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) Director Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry yesterday had said that the lab had examined blood and urine samples of people “exposed to toxic aerosols” as well as soybean dust samples collected from the port area.

He had said that while the ICCBS was still “extensively engaged in deciphering the cause of this toxic exposure”, the findings so far suggested that the symptoms being experienced by Keamari residents were a result of “overexposure to soybean dust”.